Daily Speculations
The Web Site of Victor Niederhoffer and Laurel Kenner

Brooks Farms Hunt Update

The Latest Brooks Farms Hunt Update -- Capitalism in Small Town America, from Scott Brooks

No hustle and bustle. No rush hour. No cabs honking. No middle fingers raised. No tall buildings. No business suits.

But somehow people earn a living, and seem very content doing it. I've always been fascinated by the mechanism of capitalism. I remember as a kid trying to figure out how much money Disney made. I asked the employees how many people came thru the park, on average, each day. I then calculated how much we spent while there (figured that was pretty normal, little did I know we were cheapskates compared to most there), extrapolated those numbers out over the total traffic and voila...I figured out that the theme park business was pretty profitable.

I'll discuss a few businesses that have grabbed my attention here in Mercer County, Missouri:

First: The Cowboy Cafe

I've discussed this before. They serve the best non-buffet breakfast value I've ever encountered, possibly the best in the world. It's called the "Cowboy". An appetizer of biscuits and gravy. Then a main course of 3 eggs (however you want them), a giant side of hash browns, three giant sausage patties (or a giant slab of ham, or a handful of bacon), two pieces of toast, coffee, and orange (free refills), all for $5.45. I can't eat it all. I get a doggy bag and make two meals out of it. For tax and tip, I get two meals for $7.00. And they now know me when I go in there. So when I come in, all they ask me is, "Do you want the Cowboy?" I like feeling like Norm at Cheers!

"I took a picture of the what the Cowboy looks like, so as soon as I figure out how to get it downloaded from the camera onto my computer, I'll email a picture if I can...but I warn you, don't look at it right before dinner or it will spoil your meal!

Second: AJ's BBQ and Kountry Kookin'

A gentleman named Alex bought the restaurant just up the street from the Cowboy Cafe. I stopped eating there several years ago because of the poor service (that's how I discovered the Cowboy Cafe). When I saw that the old place was under new management I had to give it a try. I was impressed. They had a breakfast buffet on Sunday mornings. Alex had set up a buffet with very nice (almost silver looking) serving trays (like a fancy restaurant). He had an egg cooker and would cook your eggs to order any way you wanted. As I watched Alex work the buffet, I could tell he was quite a bit different than your average Joe. So I struck up a conversation with him and got his story.

He used to work all the world, most recently in Turkey. He works as a chef for major corporations and dignitaries, and muckety mucks (as he put it). He's cooked gourmet meals for his employers at 30,000 feet on corporate jets, at sea in corporate yachts, and in the finest corporate headquarters all over the globe.

Watching him cook, watching him create food was a fascinating process. I am absolutely worthless in the kitchen and claim no skill there whatsoever, but I think after years of business dealings, I can spot skill in other endeavors. It is my opinion that Alan had that skill.

His love though, was NOT the regular food he was making. His love was BBQ! He wanted to establish himself and his restaurant as the premier BBQ restaurant in that area. He wanted people to think of his place as THE PLACE to come for BBQ. So far, I've not had his BBQ. But I will and I'll report back to the readers as to its worthiness. I have a feeling that I'll have an enjoyable experience!

So why was he in Mercer, MO? His mother is ill. He came home to take care of her. He doesn't think she'll be around much longer and wanted to be with her to make up for the all the years he was gone. I asked him what he'll do when she dies. He said he'd sell the place and go back to being a chef traveling the world.

I am intrigued enough to want to know more about this man and his life. Interesting stories to tell I'm sure!

Third: Crossroads Bar and Grill.

This is my favorite story. CRBG is owned and run by Bill and Debbie Heck. Debbie is a very nice lady, though I can't say I know her very well. Bill is an outgoing gregarious, friendly gentleman. He always makes you feel welcome whenever you come in. But the business acumen he possesses is what fascinates me.

You see, CRBG was originally "The Snack Shack", a burger, ice cream, and pinball joint. Every time we went in there, the same guys were sitting around drinking coffee, and the same kids were playing pinball. Quite frankly, I don't see how they stayed in business. Then they added a liquor store to the front of the establishment. Outside of some of the local "stop and robs" you can't get liquor anywhere else. And like a stroke of genius, he added some other items for sale to the liquor store...GUNS and AMMO! What a perfect combination for this area; guns, bullets, and liquor!

Now I'm gonna speculate here because I don't really know what happened, but I think the liquor store saved his financial bacon (again, I don't see how the Snack Shack stayed in business). He probably started making good money and then had an epiphany...My guess is he used the money from the liquor store...he closed down the Snack Shack...remodeled...and...Voila...re-opened as the Crossroads Bar and Grill. The only place for 25 miles that you can buy a drink!

He had the perfect location...at the crossroads of the town (the only stop light in town (and its ALWAYS on flash). He started serving some different kinds of food, mixed drinks, and bottled beer. He put in two TVs that are almost always on CMT, a juke box with everything from Metallica to George Strait to Frank Sinatra, to Guns and Roses to Toby Keith, to 60's pop, to 80's hair bands to a few modern rap songs. The bar always has people sitting at it, visiting, drinking, and having a good time. The restaurant always has people eating and drinking... and Bill walking around with his apron on (he helps in the kitchen), smiling, greeting people, running to get things for you, and going out of his way to make you feel right at home!

CRBG at first glance, is what most people would refer to as a greasy spoon. But if you were to take the time to go in, eat the food (yes, it will bring you one step closer to a bypass), and "experience" it, you will find CRBG to be much more. It is a friendly place, where friendly town folk gather to visit, share stories, and relieve the pressures of the day. And you will find a great small town entrepreneur in Bill Heck!

Fourth: The Henkes. I've written about the Henkes before. They farm my land. Mike and Donna Henke are the mom and dad. They've recently retired and work full time on the farm (I'm not sure you can call that retirement). Then there's Anthony and his wife Amber. Amber is finishing up school to become a nurse and is expecting a baby. Anthony works as a manager over at Premium Standard Farms. Then there is Mack, the youngest son. He runs a manure spreading business.

Each one them either has or had a full time job. And each one of them also works the farm, and the ranch. If you looked up "salt of the earth" in the dictionary, you would see their picture next to it. They are hard working, entrepreneurs, who have their hands in multiple enterprises, are skilled at what they do, and are gifted with a high degree of intelligence that they utilize to not just get the work done more efficiently, but to see correlations and connections between seemingly unrelated tasks.

When I was looking for a farmer to farm my 72 acres of bottom land, I put out the word and ended up talking to several different people. I had offers ranging from ridiculously low to rent my land, to offers that were ridiculously high.

The Henkes came to me with more than a dollar amount offer. They came to me with a plan. They outlined what they wanted to do, how they wanted to do it, when they wanted to do it and what it would take to make it profitable for all parties involved, for the long term. They went into the economic of farming and what it would take for me to make a profit, for them to make a profit and for them to be able to take care of my land and improve it at the same time. I found that interesting. They were showing ME how to make a profit and increase the value of my land. At the same time, they wanted a long term agreement so that they could be protected too. They didn't want to do all this work to improve my land and then as soon as it is in tiptop shape, have me yank it out from under them and re-bid it out to someone who will come in and rape the land.

Yes, I said, rape the land. You see, I checked on some of the farmers that were bidding on my land, and found out that the reason they were offering me 25% more money than the Henkes was because they would come in, plant their crops, put no lime in (to keep the grounds Ph at about a level of 6.5 - 7), and no fertilizer, then after a few years, move on and not farm the land anymore after they had taken it for all it was worth...leaving me with depleted ground that was worth far less than it was before.

The Henkes went into the economics of the land and told me how to make a good profit. Their economic numbers jibbed with the research I would have done (not all the other "bidders" numbers jibbed, or they were rather nebulous in their assessments or just plain elusive when it came to numbers).

So not only are the Henkes good farmers, they're good ranchers and know that market well. So they are diversified in that respect. But they are further diversified in that they all have (or had) full time jobs too to support themselves. Imagine, working full time job, then having to run cattle before and after work (and having to run home once in a while during the day during calving season). Then during the planting/harvesting season working nearly 20 hours a day for a 4 - 6 weeks at a stretch.

Then on top of that, they also run a pig farming operation. The company Anthony works for, Premium Standard Farms (Nasdaq ticker: PORK) has an interesting deal that they do with farmers/ranchers/landowners. The landowner builds a pig farm operation on their farm, then PSF rents it from then for 10 years. The rent they pay is enough to pay whole building off and make the farmer a little profit (although the farmer has to work pretty hard along the way to keep the pig operation up). It is my assessment that for the first 10 years, the pay is not worth the work. The farmer is just building net worth, paying of the building and other apparatus of the operation. After the 10 years are over, I'm sure PSF will make the farmer do some expensive improvements, but not nearly as costly as the original building. Then it should turn into a great cash flow mechanism.

The youngest son, Mack, has a great business that he runs for the family. He spread pig manure and waste as fertilizer on local farms. There are two things that stand out about pig waste as fertilizer:

  1. It's great fertilizer! If you can get them to spread it on your land, I recommend it highly.
  2. It will create a stink that you can't even imagine in your worst nightmares. So if you spread it, be ready for great crop growth (or flower growth) but also be ready for your neighbors to hate you!

They are also partners with me in my hunting operations. They find and lease the land, do the Quality Deer Management (www.qdma.com) that they are directed to do (i.e. plant food plots, mowing of grasses, etc.) and help when the hunters are in.

They also do some custom work on top of all this. I hire them to plant my food plots and do work around my farm. They are not just hard workers. They are very skilled, knowledgeable individuals who have found their niche in life and are using their intelligence and drive to create wealth, comfort and a good life for themselves. If there were a spec list for farmers, they would be on it!

The Latest Brooks Farms Hunt Update -- Missouri Ice Storm, from Scott Brooks

In case you've missed it, we had a giant ice storm that hit Missouri. I wrote a bit about it in my latest Brooksfarms Hunt Update. But we actually got very little of it here in Princeton Mo. where I currently am.

I talked to my wife in St. Louis and she said we had a tree on the house, and a big branch on our van, and no electricity!

My friend who was hunting with me today has a fiance who works at the St. Louis Fed. The key employees were put up in a local hotel last nite so they could be there to open the Fed vault in the morning.

My wife has a fire in the fireplace, and space heaters going. We talked about getting a generator when the big thunderstorm put out the power for a week this summer but opted to wait. Now we are kicking ourselves!

But I would like to point out that we are getting by just fine. No one is rioting, looting, shooting, robbing, running for cover in the local sports stadium, or waiting for some school bus to come save them, or blaming the government for our woes. We are going to survive! Although the Midwest has problems like anywhere else, you will find many of us in "flyover country" to be rugged individualists!

We are treating it as adventure! It is a character building opportunity...testing one's mettle in adversity!

Regardless of whether you believe it's Darwin or God it is still all about the strong surviving...mainly because they choose to!

My family chooses too! I am proud of how they are handling this without me being there!

The Latest Brooks Farms Hunt Update -- Half Time, from Scott Brooks

I got home last Tuesday from exactly 4 weeks at the farm. I'm heading back up to the farm next Tuesday for 4 or 5 more days of muzzleloader and archery hunting.

I came home empty handed from the first 1/2 of the hunt, in terms of THE BUCK I was looking for.

But I had a great hunt and a great time, and accomplished some things I was proud of. One of the things that is really hard to do is to pass up on great deer that don't meet the qualifications of what I'm looking for. On this hunt, I passed up on shooting around ten 120-130 class bucks. They were nice, but each was in the 2 1/2 year age class... just need one more year.

I passed up on several bucks that were in the 140 class. Some of them were 2 1/2 year olds (a spectacular 2 1/2 year old) and a few were legal for my farm, in that they were over 140 and were 3 1/2 years old or better. But I wanted something bigger and better.

However, the part I'm most proud of was the fact that I passed up on at least one, maybe two bucks that were right at 150, one of them that was for sure in the mid 150 class. They were both easily 3 1/2 year olds. But I've got 3 deer on the wall that are above 150 inches and one that scores 161. I want something bigger.

So I held out. And as of now, my tag remains unfilled.

But I did get some venison. One of my hunting clients, shot a very nice buck. The biggest of his life. It was barely legal for the hunt club, but was in the acceptable range. It had a score of 136 6/8. Our minimum limit is 140, however, we will make an exception if the buck is at least 135 (mistakes do happen and we give a margin for error). Even though we would have preferred he not shot it, we were excited for him!

He was excited to get the antlers! He asked me if I wanted the venison. I of course was glad to have it, as venison is a staple in our home.

I saw some truly wonderful things while I was there. I saw bucks chasing does, I saw bucks tending does in heat. Once I saw a doe walking around with her tail up in the air (can be a sign of her being in heat), with a nice 130 class buck, walking right behind her as she fed in the harvested soybean field. The buck started to get nervous and walk away from the doe. Then I saw why he got nervous. A very nice 150 class buck stepped out of the woods. He was definitely more dominant than the 130 class buck. Not only did he have bigger antlers (note: the biggest antlers does NOT mean the buck is the dominant buck) but he had a MUCH larger body. He was a mature buck, he was a MAN! The 130 class buck was probably a 2 1/2 year old (the equivalent of a late teenager/early 20 year old young man).

The dominant buck took over. The 130 class buck walked away, but still hung around. The doe continued to casually feed. Every time the 130 class buck would get too close, the big boy would puff up his hair and turn sideways to the smaller buck and walk stiff legged (all things that make him look bigger), in a show of intimidation.

Finally the smaller buck just laid down in the field, curled up like a dog, with his head still up. I've never seen that before. I'm not sure if its a show of submission, if he was just tired, or what. But the bigger buck seemed to leave him alone after the smaller buck laid down.

I also saw three 1 1/2 year olds chasing a doe in heat. They were hounding her relentlessly. She would walk along and they would follow her. She would stop and urinate, and they would all stop to smell the spot. She went into my woods, and then came back out a few minutes later, then into my neighbors cedars, out again a few minutes later. The bucks were hot on her trail, grunting the whole time (I can't describe a buck grunt in writing, so next time you see me at a spec gathering, remind me to give you a demonstration if you'd like). It was quite a show.

I also saw 3 coyotes another morning. I decided not to shoot the first one because I was afraid I'd scare off a deer. I should have shot it. A little while later, I saw another coyote. This one was not so lucky. I whacked him with my .270...the coyote loses that battle every time! A few minutes later another coyote came in. I tried to get into position to get a shot at him, but he saw me (even though I was 20 feet up a tree). He hesitated for just a second, I tried to settle my sights on him and needed only one more nanosecond to get off a shot...he bolted! He escaped getting whacked by the absolute smallest of margins!

My dad ended up leaving on Saturday. That left me there with the biologist that manages the farm, and he was out most of the time. So I was on my own. I like hunting on my own, but I started to get pretty lonely. There's no rhyme or reason to it. Sometimes I like being alone, sometimes I like company. I guess after nearly a month of hunting, I was getting lonely.

The biologist left on Sunday morning, and I was all alone. I did get pretty lonely and was ready to go home. I was really missing my kids. Except I had to stay because the clients weren't leaving until Tuesday nite. So I occupied myself with cleaning up the hunting cabin, and hunting a few hours in the morning and a few in the evening.

I'll give updates next week as David and I head up for the muzzleloader season to hunt some more!

The Latest Brooks Farms Hunt Update -- Pack of Wild Dogs..., from Scott Brooks

One of our client groups was crabbing because they weren't seeing any deer. They said that there was a pack of wild dogs running loose on the property. As it turns out, they were right. The farmer who just sold the property moved out and left behind a pack of around 20 dogs that lived on his farm. He barely feed them enough to keep them around, for the rest of their sustanance, they hunted. When he moved out, they were on their own.

They were killing deer and had killed some calves. They were getting bolder and bolder in their attacks. The farmer who now owns the land and the farmers/ranchers around him have lost some calves and wanted the dogs erradicated.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that any of these dogs could have been a wonderful family pet.....if nurtured and raised right...as it was, they were vicious feral animals. I've not seen anything like this ever in my life. They were genuinely scary. When my partner and I finally caught up with them, they were not a group of Lassie's, they were more like a pack of Cujo's. At first they turned to face us growl and bark in a threatening manner. A pack of 20 feral dogs, some barking, some baring their teeth, with hair standing up on their backs, can be a scary thing. Yes we were out numbered 20 to 1.....but those numbers were irrelevant in this case... the only numbers that mattered were:

Caliber: .270
Bullet weight: 130 grains
Bullet speed: 3000 feet per second

In deferrence to the sensitivities of the list, I'll end this part of the story here. We haven't seen them back. Hopefully, we don't. But unfortunately, they have a tendency to be very territorial.

Lets move onto to some lessons that I've had reiterrated to me while hunting. We had 2 groups of hunters up here to hunt on my leases. There was a group of 5 guys that had access to over 2,300 acres of prime, top of the line, deer hunting ground. There was another group of 3 hunters that had access to 1000 acres of land prime, top of the line, deer hunting ground. We had set up the land right with proper food plots. Not just any food plots, but highly nutritious, highly desirable (tasty) food. We had the land scouted, and stands set up in prime locations. We have maps marked with stand locations, boundry's, travel routes, and everything you could want to know about deer.

We showed them where to hunt. We told them when the prime movement hours are. We told them when to get to their stands. How to get to their stands. We had it all set up for them. The group of 3 listened to what we told them. Followed our instructions of when, where, and how. And here's the big key... they spent time in the woods. They hunted hard for 3 - 4 hours every morning and 3 - 4 hours every afternoon. They followed my admonition that they needed to stay alert and positive...there are NOT a lot of dee up here, but there are BIG DEER here, so you have to stay alert and positive at all times. One could show up anyplace or anytime. Keep a positive mental attitude. They saw a lot of deer. They saw some good bucks. And one person in their group killed the biggest deer of his life.

The other group didn't listen. They hunted sporadically. A few guys smoked in the stands (a deer's biggest defence mechanisem is its sense of smell). If they didn't see a deer in the stand they were in within a short while, they got up and moved (deer spot movement like a hawk). They crabbed, and gripped. They were a bunch of sad sacks, who complained constantly.

The only buck they killed was a buck that was protected. It was a 2 1/2 year old buck that would have been a real trophy next year. They didn't see many deer. One of the guys got disgusted this morning and went to wait in the truck. While he was waiting in the truck, a doe ran right in front of him, 20 yards away. So he jumped out, opened up the back of the truck to grab his gun in case in a buck was chasing the doe (a common occurance during the rut). One did. A huge buck. The biggest buck he'd ever seen. By the time he grabbed his gun from the back seat, it was gone. He wasn't ready. He wasn't prepared. Just as I said...anytime and any place..even in a field in front of your truck. Instead, they got discouraged, and left a day early. If they had only listened to what we said, the outcome of their hunt may have been different.

Being coachable is a trait that can pay big dividends.

I can't emphasize it enough how one must always be prepared... specially when its easy to let your mind wander or your body is cold, tired and aching. When times are bad and things seem like they're not going your way, you have to reach deep down inside and find something inside yourself to get your mind back in the game, or at the very least, force yourself to concentrate.

Listening to people who know what they are doing, learning from them, and following their instructions is paramount. In 1976, I had the privilege meeting Mr. Russell. He was my 7th grade science teacher. He put a smart aleck slacker in his place. He didn't put up with any crap from me. He won the war of the wills. He won my respect. He invited me to be on his basketball team. He turned a tall, lanky, uncoordinated goofy kid into the best basketball player in the league. The reason that happened, as he told me later, was that I was coachable. I did EXACTLY what he told me to do, without hesitation.

As a result, we started a life long friendship. He went from being Mr. Russell, to Coach Russell, to being my friend Mike. Now he works for me full time. He home schools my kids.

And he deer hunts with me.

And when we deer hunt.....he listens to what I tell him to do! The old coach has to be coachable too. To bad that group of 5 guys weren't.

Brooksfarms Hunt Update -- Missed Opportunities, from Scott Brooks

A full day sitting in the stand can make from one tired guy! I am bushed... I'm going to bed early tonite......and I'll sleep well. We BBQ'ed some backstraps from a nice buck I got with my bow last year. We dry rubbed the tenderloins, then BBQ'ed them over charcoal till medium rare. A real taste treat.

I saw 13 deer today, a bunch of squirrels and turkeys, and one otter. Saw some nice bucks today....but they needed one more year to grow....hopefully they'll survive the hunting season.

My dad had his chance this morning at first light. Dad was sitting in the hammerhead stand (recently christened because I dropped the hammer on Al's head a week ago while putting this stand up) and had one of the real nice bucks that we've got on my farm come up on him from the northeast corner of the 10 acre woodlot.

Instead of going to his rifle scope to count the points (he could cleary see it was a buck), he used his binoculars. He knew it was a shooter the instant he put the binoculars on it, reached for his gun, and by the time he got the scope on it, it's body was down below the crest of the hill. He could still see the antlers, but not the body. Hopefully next time he'll remember to use the scope to judge the antlers instead of his binoculars.

I gotta go to bed. Sitting on a 2X2 platform of a hanging stand 15 feet off the ground for 11 1/2 hours straight in 28 - 40 degrees with wind, and sun can make one real tired.

Good nite.....I'm up at 4:30 am cst and in the stand by 6 am

Brooksfarms Hunt Update -- The Nite Before, from Scott Brooks

Everyone's in camp. Stories are flying, getting bigger and taller every year... and the laughter only grows! I re-told the classic story of when my best buddy Jeff and I went elk hunting in the High Uintas Mountains of Utah, and how, through a serious of unprobable events, he almost chocked to death on a single elk....um.....turd. It is absolutely one of the funniest stories. We just laugh about it every year, no matter how many times we tell it. My dad was wiping the tears away from his eyes as I regaled the group with the tale of me and Jeff on top of that mountain, and how I tricked him into opening his mouth and then proceeded to flick an elk turd over 20 feet through the air, not just into his mouth, but straight down his wind pipe.

Jeff began to choke.....really choke. He grabbed his throat, his eyes bulged, he started to turn really really red....I thought I was going to have to give him the Heimlich manuever right there on top of the mountain....I started to stand up to help him, when all of a sudden that turd shot out of his mouth like a rocket and flew over 20 feet thru the air....after we got over the initial shock, we couldn't stop laughing.....I laughed so hard that I threw my back out and had to limp down the mountain...Limping down that mountain, between bouts of laughter, all I could think about was how I was going to explain to his wife how her husband died...

Jeff reminds me every year that he is still going to get me back for the "elk turd incident". We've all designated which areas we're going to be hunting tomorrow. We've all got our stuff set up. Lunches packed. I've reviewed with group the specifications for a legal buck on the Brooksfarm.

We've got to get up at 4:30 so its off to bed early tonite. Hopefully I'll have some good stuff to post in the next update....worst case scenario for tomorrow's post is going to be a discussion of the BBQ that is planned! We've got the back straps thawing (venison tenderloins), the bacon to wrap it in, the potatoes to mash, the corn and green beans to simmer.

Brooksfarms Hunt Update -- The BBQ, from Scott Brooks

I don't have time for a long post but I wanted to let everyone know that right now, one of the highlights of the hunt is happening....

The BBQ! T-Bone's tonight with baked potatoes and corn!

We're all sitting on my patio enjoying our beverage of choice (me: Juicy Juice. Everyone else: Budweiser Select). The jokes are flowing, as is the reminiscing.

And like on cue, the coyotes are howling in the background!

Lots of fun, lots of laughs, lots of memories, great food, great friends, all in one of our favorite places in the world to be!

Gotta go rejoin the guys! Maybe a few spec listers will join me next year!

Brooksfarms Hunt Update -- Placing a trade, from Scott Brooks:

There is an old saying: 7 days of hunting makes one weak

And I do feel weak today. Its also supposed to be warmer today. Which for hunting is not good. The deer have already put on their heavy winter coats (which are brown as opposed to their summer coats which are red) and when the temperature gets above 45 degrees, the deer movement slows way down.

So when I'm out "speculating" on harvesting a deer, I want the conditions in my favor. There is an argument to be made for being out there all the time and catching the long term positive drift of being "in the game" as much as possible, and I'm out there more than 99% of others. But I prefer to use my time judiciously too. On days like today, above 45 at 6 am, a warm southerly wind (warm is relative word as its not really warm outside), I know the deer movement is going to be slow. I also know the rut (breeding season) is still not at full swing. If it were the peak pre-rut, I would be out in the stand come heck or high water.

So in checking the weather forecast for the week, I've noticed that its going to be warmer this week than normal, and bit more sunny and some rain on Monday. Therefore, I am going to "place a trade" for the hunt. Let me explain.

Today, I'm going to go out and mow my clover and alfalfa food plots one more time. This is pretty late to be mowing, but I'm gonna take a chance and see I can't top off a few weeds, and stimulate some new growth on the plots. With rain, warmer weather, and sunshine coming, its a recipe (potentially) for some new succulent growth on the plots. That new growth will hopefully draw in the does. Why do I want to draw in the does? Because where they are, the bucks will shortly be!

The problem I've got is that my neighbors to the north, south and west of me still have some corn up. It's hard to compete with standing corn. The next time you look at a corn field, picture in your mind deer, lots of deer, just living in that corn. They love it. It gives them great cover, a food source right in their bed, and if a creek is nearby, water. A corn field next to a creek is almost always filled with deer. It gives them everything they want. One of their favorite most nutritious foods, incredible cover from predators (its hard to sneak up on anything in a corn field because of the noise) and water.

It would be like hiding on a buffett line with your favorite bedding, with the drink machine right there!

Hard to compete with that. But the deer know what they need nutritionally. There body will tell them what they need, and they will be drawn to it. As much as they like corn, its not the best food for them right now. Corn supplies energy in the form of carbohydrates which are vital as the winter gets worse and worse. What they need to do now is build up their fat stores which requires protein. My clover and alfalfa provides them with great protein.

So the trade I'm placing today is a risky one. I'm taking a chance cutting the clover this late, especially if I don't get the re-growth I'm hoping for, but the conditions are lining up in my favor....I even looked at weather charts...I know what Lack is thinking "That Brooks idiot not only looks at charts, but he's looking at weather charts (note to self: must make fun of Scott at next spec party if not sooner ;-).

On top of that, I'm going against the momentum with this trade. Even though I'll do all this work, and even though I may get the weather I want, that doesn't mean the deer going to come out of the corn. But if I do nothing, they definitely won't come out of the corn. Unless of course the neighbors start harvesting. Then the deer run out of the corn like cockroaches when the lights come on.

It is a sight to behold watching the deer scurry out of the corn. But its a sight I'm not going to watch (if it happens). There's no money to be made on that trade, unless of course your satisfied shooting a small buck or a young doe....shooting an inexperienced deer. I'm not looking for the little bucks, I want the big bucks! And big bucks do not go where the little ones go. They take the smart escape routes. They don't expose themselves, they stay hidden.

Young inexperienced deer will get up and run when you get close to them. A big buck will actually just lay there, letting you walk within a few feet of them (if they don't think you've seen them) and just let you walk on by.

So when the harvesting starts and most deer are high-tailing it out of the corn, the big bucks are implimenting a different course of action. I don't know how far their brain capacity goes for reasoning or planning, but I believe they have some small capacity to do this. The big bucks will "slip" out of the corn and spend as little as possible time in the open (preferably no time in the open). They will want to get into thick, wooly, nasty cover as quickly as possible. They know they are likely the safest in this kind of cover. And they are right.

You see most hunters (probably their biggest enemy) are lazy. And most hunters want to see as much territory as possible. Hunters rationalize that the more land I see, the greater the odds I will see a deer. And that is true, you will likely see more deer. You're just not likely to see any big ones.

Although I like seeing deer, I purposefully put myself in places where I won't necessarily see a lot of deer. But they are places where I am much more likely to see the deer I am looking for. I hunt in thick wooly cover. If my neighbor to the south is harvesting, I'm gonna be on the stand at the "pinch point" on Muddy Creek. If the neighbor to the west harvesting, I may sit on the bank of Muddy Creek by the old soy bean stand (since torn down) right on the ground, or in the little food plot stand just on the edge of the big woods. If the neighbor to the north is harvesting then I'll be in "Scott's stand", thusly named because its my stand and is off limits to anyone and everyone unless I specifically give them permissions to hunt it.

Its my hope that the north field is harvested on the 13th and 14th. I'd like the west field to be harvested the weekend of the 11th and 12th. I'd like the south field to be harvested the 15th and 16th. That is my "hunting fantasy" for this year!

One also needs to use the "masses" to ones favor when hunting. Just as in the market, I try figure out (yes even quantitatively now!) where the masses are likely to go (whether up or down), and buy or sell ahead of them, I do the same for deer hunting. Fortunately, it is much easier and more predictable for deer hunting than it is for trading.

I want to see what the "chucklehead hunters" (as I affectionately refer to them) are doing. These guys are not very good hunters. They are simply guys wearing orange, carrying guns, (that they haven't picked up since last year, and shot three times to sight in last week, if they found the time to even sight their rifle in), that have no comprehension of the fact that every deer in the woods not only hears them, but more importantly smells them (gets their scent) before they ever hear them, tromping thru woods and terrain they haven't scouted and moving deer around. A seemingly random pattern.

I would submit (without quantitative analysis to back it up, just little 'ole me doing some pattern recognition) that it is not random, or at least there are predictable patterns in what appears to randomness.

The younger inexperienced deer will run around in a random manner. They will simply not know what to do. Just like a market novice is completely lost in market downturn (I reference again '00, '01, '02 and early '03) and will discover the old adage of mine, losses hurt you more than gains help you (which is 100% true in the vicious world of mother nature), the young deer will experience great losses. It shows up in the numbers. Most of the deer killed in the hunting season are 2 1/2 years of age or younger. The vast majority are 1 1/2 years old (probably 75% of the kill). I'm guessing here, but I'll bet 90% - 95% of the deer kill is deer less than 2 1/2 years of age.

The young, the inexperienced and those that choose not to learn from the lessons around them.

The older mature bucks with the big racks are what I'm after. These old boys are really smart, wily, and very very hard to kill. The same is true for an old doe. The biggest problem an old doe has is her young inexperienced fawns who expose her and get her into trouble.

So to get a shot at these old mature bucks, I must use "alternative chucklehead" methods. I must be where the big boys are going to be when the chuckleheads start infiltrating the woods. I must be where the chuckleheads will likely not go ("that's to thick to hunt in there BillyBubbaJoeBob, lets go sit on the edge of that harvested soybean field. Remember, we saw a lot deer there last year").

I must also be prepared. Completely prepared. I am prepared to sit all day. When BillyBubbaJoeBob is going in for lunch, I'm waiting pateintly in my stand. Why? Because studies show (www.qdma.com ) that deer movement spikes up during the 10 am - 2 pm stretch when BBJB is at home for lunch. It seems that deer know that the woods have emptied out and its safer to move around. Except that I'm there waiting. I don't need to go in for lunch, I bring my lunch with me.

Deer hunters are also very lackadaisical about their scent. This is probably the most important thing. When I go into the woods, I am as scent free as possible. Most BBJB's go and eat at the local greasy spoon (which opens early for deer hunters) wearing the same clothes they will hunt.They come out smelling like bacon, grease, eggs, coffee, and smoke. If you want to see first hand unskilled deer hunters, then go to a local greasy spoon on the opening morning of deer season (around 5 am) and you will certainly see "americanus suckusdeerhunterus BillyBubbaJoeBobus" (family, genus, species).

These guys are like the inexperienced masses on the market. I use them to my advantage. I love these guys (as long as they are law abiding moral hunters). I love seeing their "freezer meat kills". I love hearing their stories. I love talking to them and having the camaraderie. They also like driving by my farmhouse to see if I got my buck yet!

They always ask me that at night at the local restaurants ("Hey, Scott, did you get your buck yet?"). And they always say the same things, "Man, I wish I could get a buck like that!" "How do you always get a nice buck?"

I try and tell them, but they don't listen, or they don't want to hear it.

To get a buck like I usually (but not always) get you have to follow certain rules. The first and foremost rule is (now bear with me as this gets a little technical here):

Don't shoot the first buck you see if it's not the trophy buck you want! Once you shot the freakin' buck, you can't shoot another one!!!!!

Let him go so he can grow!

Then develop some deer hunting skills. Scout the land. Learn where the bucks travel. Learn what it means to be scent free. Understand that the most direct path to your "expertly scouted stand site" is likely the worst path you can take (in terms of spooking deer and letting them know that "danger" is in the woods). Figure out alternative paths to get into your stand, out of the way low impact paths to get you where you want to be with the lowest impact possible.

I think there is an obvious market analogy here. A few months ago, I took a big position in ISL (a closed end mutual fund of the Israeli stock index). I bought when there was (pardon me for being insensitive) blood in the streets. But the problem we had was volume. The position we were about to take was literally going to move the market. We had to "sneak" in using alternative paths (actually several alternative paths) so as not alert the market a big move was coming.

I guess what it boils down to is that there seems to me to be numerous market analogies in hunting.

I want to have a core hunting area (the big exchanges) with a lot of does around (the masses) to attract in the big bucks (what we refer to as the "outlier" trades in my office....those trades that we sniff out that account for our "big hits" each year and run our returns up pretty good).

I want to hunt for big bucks based on the market conditions .i.e. do I hunt today or lay the ground work and mow clover (do I see any outlier trades today, or do I just let my "core" portfolio ride and spend the day doing research to find the next outlier, opportunity, or risk to be avoided).

I must be ready to do the uncomfortable. I must be willing to belly crawl thru muck, or sit out in the rain, or a windy cold day freezing, to have the opportunity to harvest that big buck. The same is true with trading. Everyone wants to buy low and sell high. But no one stops to think what that really means. It means, "buy when things look scary, and sell when things look their best" (very counter intuitive). Therefore, I must be willing to crawl thur the muck of fear and negative emotions to make money the money my clients want ( i.e. buy ISL two days after the Hezbollah incident).

And I must be a student of the game. Mother Nature (the older and meaner sister of the Market Mistress) teaches lessons everyday. One must learn those lessons to prosper. But one must learn the negative lessons to survive. When dealing with Mother Nature, losses definitively hurt you (read: kill you) more than gains help you.

Study what is going on around. Read what others have written and develop the mental acuity to falsify a position and get yourself out of danger as quickly as possible (or at least move yourself closer to opportunity).

Time to go eat breakfast at the world famous Cowboy Cafe.

So I am definitely placing a speculative trade this year, but one that I think has a good risk/reward ratio.

Craig Mee replies:

This is interesting in relation to markets players, in that it reminds me of a few things,

Firstly, is that, to a lot players the story of the trade/hunt, and the years of conversation and camaraderie/mateship, that they seek from the experience , which undoubtly manifests itself from this eating at Greasy Joe's, this is much more important than the result, -obviously then these guys, do not see themselves as losers in the game, in that although it costs them money, most got out it in fact exactly what they wanted, even though the professional inherently gained from the position they took in the market. It brought to light many years ago, after seeing how one retail account traded the market, (as I was filling the paper) and even at that stage, the seemingly bizarre trades the client took, most ending in big losses, the account exec saying to me " he couldn't care less, he's an engineer , makes far too much money in his chosen professional, and just likes a bit of dinner party conversation."

It seems that there are quite a few players such as this out there, where they win , but they lose. However there losses in time and money are inconsequential to what they wanted to gain . The problem lies in the fact of those striving for greatness, and success, and the financial reward being their only and absolute measure. When these people do not do enough homework, and throw far too many resources at the hunt/trade to the detriment of other areas of there lives is where, pain starts and a thorough examination of there execution and initial plan should begin.

Woody Allen, often quoted "90 percent of life is just turning up", certainly may get those who do , mostly what they want, but not the professional trader.

Brooksfarms Hunt Update -- No Coyotes Today, from Scott Brooks:

Just got back in from the evening hunt. My hands are still not working real good because I forgot my warm gloves and my hand warmers. Luckily it wasn't too cold, but my hands are stiff nonetheless.

We tried a different tactic tonight. My buddy Jim and I put down our archery gear in exchange for my pump action .270's. We took the deer carcass from last nite, along with the coyote carcass, and spread them out across a field, hoping to draw in some coyotes.

Right at dark we heard the coyotes howling...unfortunately, they were howling way in the distance. And they were going away from us.

I'll have to check with my neighbor in the morning. He's got a few cows getting ready to calve. The coyote's were in the vicinity of his cows.

Outside of not getting any coyotes, it was a very enjoyable evening.

Jim and I sat next to each other the bank of Muddy Creek, watched for coyotes, visited and talked a bit about business. He's a very successful structural engineer who's made quite a business for himself building cell phone towers. He's done well. I love hearing stories about other people's journey to success.

It's especially invigorating to do it in such an alternative environment...sitting on the bank of a creek, hunched back against a small oak, hiding behind the blackberry briar's, wearing complete camouflage, and holding high powered rifles!

Something kind of funny happened (well at least Jim thought it was funny). I was staring intently down into the creek, trying to catch a glimpse of what was making noise. I was concentrating very heavily on finding whatever it was, but Jim didn't know that was what I was doing. It was just then he decided to hoot like an owl. He didn't do it quietly either. I liked to swallowed my tongue it scared me so bad!

I turned to Jim and just stared at him. He looked at me and said, "what?". I said, "I'm making a new rule...you can not hoot without giving me warning first....I liked to had a heart attack!" He started to laugh, then laugh harder, then he got to belly laughing. That got me laughing. Pretty soon we were like a couple of kids with contagious laughter. I'll be we laughed on and off for 5 minutes.

Jim also designed a gambrel pulley system (he's a structural engineer, you know!), so we could hoist the deer up and weigh them. He also repaired my ATV, and and a few other things around the house, as did Shawn. It's good to have friends that have skills that I don't.

Yes its true. I have absolutely no mechanical skills whatsoever. My wife has a tool box. She won't let me touch it. She forbids me from using tools for any reason. If there is car trouble, and I look under the hood (all men are compelled to do this), my eyes glaze over. The only way I could fix a car is if I looked under the hood and noticed an evil troll in there making the truck not work. I could then reach in and remove him and VIOLA' the truck would work. Outside of that, I choose to know nothing mechanical!

Justaguy came up to hunt with me last week, with our other buddy Gregg. Gregg owns an HVAC company. Oddly, my heater blower went out. I called Gregg, he picked one up for me, and VIOLA', he installed it!

Here's something to note: If you're going to own a farm, you either need to be really good at fixing stuff, or surround yourself with people that know how to fix stuff. Thank goodness for the latter!

Brooksfarms Hunt Update -- Weird Things, from Scott Brooks:

Each day I'm here, I realize that I am in a microcosm of America that you really have to see to believe.

There are the prototypical old men sitting around the local coffee shop talking about...well I don't know what they talk about.

The poverty here is pretty bad. However most seem to work, but nothing up here pays very much. The people move thru life in a deliberate and slow manner. They also do wierd things.

There was a guy a few years ago who lost his drivers license because he couldn't pass the eye exam. But that didn't slow him down. He just drove around town in his tractor. And to make the situation even more odd, he had a farm, went out and worked the cattle everyday, but lived in town, in the local roach motel, in a "single room". His name was Murray. He was a very nice guy, but he talked to much. The kind of talker that you had to get away from and he would follow you around, almost into your room. If you knew him eventually you would try to avoid him. Again, he was a nice guy, he just talked and talked and talked and talked incessantly, never allowing for you to get in a word edgwise. He would get off on tangents while telling a story, and his tangents would take tangents and eventually you would have a spider web.

Eventually the motel where he lived went out of business. His health was failing by then (he was in his early 90's if I'm not mistaken), so he went to live in the local nursing home. I thought there was some irony in that. He was born, raised, and lived his whole life in this little town. His children had all moved on, and I never saw anyone visit him. Outside of his stint in the military, he lived his whole life in Princeton. He died shortly after going into "Pearl's Nursing Facility". That's been a few years ago.

I thought of Murray today because I saw the "lawn mower man" in Mercer this morning. Basically the same story. He lost his license, so he rides around town on a riding lawn mower. He goes so slow too. He could probably walk faster than that thing goes. It's pretty comical to see him riding around. He's a local fixture. He was in the Cowboy Cafe this morning when I was eating breakfast. And he sneezed. Why do I mention a sneeze? Because it was the funniest sneeze I've every heard.

The sound he made was, "YIP", except he did it in an almost soprano high pitch squeal. At first, I didn't know what it was I had just heard (as I was immersed in Fredrick Forsyth's "The Fist of God"....thank you for that book recommend Mr. Goldcamp!). Then he sneezed again. This time I was looking right at him when he did it. At first, I thought he was faking, then he did it again!

I couldn't help it. A big smile crossed my face. I then looked at the next table to see if they had heard it, and they had. They were smiling ear to ear. We made eye contact with those knowing grins, and started chuckling. The waitress, a young high school age girl came over with an order of biscuits and gravy and said to the table, "was that a sneeze?"

He then sneezed again. And we all started to laugh (quietly of course). The lady at the table said, "He sneezes like that. It cracks me up every time I hear it!"

You couldn't script what happened next. The lawn mower man proceeded to go on a 30 second sneezing jag. Every couple of seconds he sneezed. Each time it was the loud soprano like high pitched "YIP".

Even his coffee buddies started to laugh.

After he was done sneezing, he said, "oh cut it out. You've heard me sneeze for the last 80 years, its not like this is new to you".

Of course that made them laugh harder. I just sat back and watched the show.

Another interesting anomaly in this area is fashion sense. I believe most people up here are at least 10, maybe 20 years behind on hairstyles. The women seem to be into either some form of big "poofy" hairstyle (ala, Dolly Parton, or Farrah Fawcett) or have completely straight long hair (like Crystal Gayle).

I don't even know what the men have. I've seen a few "mullets". I'm no fashion aficionado, but I'm pretty certain mullets went out of style with Dexy's Midnight Runners.

And the clothes....oh my gosh, I have no idea what they're thinking. I am a fashion moron, and I know these people need help. Its pretty hard to screw up with blue jeans, but somehow they manage too.

Another anomaly is the smoking. There is only one restaurant in whole area that is non-smoking. You can not believe how these people smoke up here. If they could teach their ears to inhale, they would have 3 cigarettes going at once. I have to wash my clothes after every meal I eat out.

I believe that all children, upon achieving the age of 12 are given two mandatory gifts- 1) A carton of cigarettes (boys also get some chewing tobacco) and 2) A packet of leaky condoms.

There is a few issues up here with teen pregnancy. There was a lady at the local "stop and rob" (bar and grill) that was a grandmother and she was ten years younger than me! (I'm 42). If I lived in a small town, based on my age, my kids (12, 10, 8, 5) should be my grandkids.

But mostly the people here are all very friendly. I sat in that local stop and rob last night and watched two guys pour money into the juke box and then sing, with great passion, the songs that came over. I particularly enjoyed their rendition of "Sweet Child of Mine" (Guns n Roses), "The Joker" (Steve Miller), and "New York, New York" (Frank Sinatra).

When we got there, all the tables were taken. There was one long table with only a couple sitting at it. I asked if we could join them. They were glad to have us. We visited and got to know them (Bill and Carrie Stamper were their names). Bill and Carrie were out on a date nite. They were high school sweethearts who had been married for probably 30 years or so. They were born and raised in Princeton. Went to high school at PHS, and raised their kids here.

Bill works at the local meat cutters shop. Carrie works for city hall. They also farm (corn and beans) and raise cattle. They've got a 120 acre spread SE of town, that is attached to Bill's dad's place. In total, along with his dad, they've got 900 acres, plus the land they lease for farming and cattle. Bill also does "Custom Farming" (people hire him and his equipment to plant, harvest, mow, rake, bale, etc.).

Tonight was special for them. Their oldest daughter had just given birth a week ago to their second grandchild (a boy). She showed off the pictures to everyone at the table. She was beaming. Bill just sat there and watched us look at the pictures.....you could tell that, as a man, he knew men really didn't usually look at baby pictures, unless shown by a women, and even when being shown by a women, the man can not comment. He must sit there with a smile as the other compliment the beautiful child and tell the mother/grandmother how proud she must be (guy rules 101. All guys on the list know what I'm talking about).

Of course guy rules also require you to say something to the husband/father. Since we had just met Bill, we talked about when he'd have the new boy out deer hunting or out running cattle. If we knew him, we could compliment him by saying something like, "he's a good looking boy. Thank goodness he really tell he takes after his mother/grandmother!" (one must give the obligatory arm punch at this time or some other "appropriate guy touch" thing).

I asked them questions about themselves and got out a pretty good story of their lives. They even extended the courtesy back and asked me about my kids. Carrie was all interested in homeschooling, how we raise so many kids (I don't think 4 is that many, but apparently I am in the minority on that one). Bill wanted to know about the youth hunt and how the kids like hunting.

I guess people are people, guys are guys, and ladies are ladies everywhere!

We were then joined at the table by their friend Andy. We introduced ourselves and started up a conversation, or should I say, they allowed me to participate in their conversation about running cattle, and harvesting beans and corn.

Andy asked me where I was from. I told him St. Louis, but I had a farm up here too. He asked where it was. When I told him, he said he thought he knew where that was. Then Bill chimed in (we'd had the "wheres your farm" conversation earlier), and cleared up it with just a few words. Bill said, "he owns Doc Zark's old farm".

I have since learned that Doc Zark died sometime in the 1960's. But people still think of it as Doc Zark's farm.

Doc Zark retired in the 1960's,already a very elderly man. He and his wife lived at farm house (since torn down). His wife passed away shortly after he retired, and the kids were out on their own and had a substantial dowry coming to them when Doc Zark died.

Doc Zark was worried about being alone and having to take care of himself. So he made a deal with the Doc Pritchard (who had taken over his practice) and Doc Pritchards wife. If they would take care of Doc Zark, in his home, and move in with him, when Doc Zark died, they would get the whole farm as payment. They agreed, they moved in, and took care of Doc Zark in his old age. For a few months. Doc Zark died very shortly thereafter.

No one in town seems to suspect foul play...

Life in a small town. It can be like Peyton Place.....with a lot less sophistication, bad hair, awful fashion sense, and a lot less teeth!

Brooksfarms Hunt Update, from Scott Brooks:

Today was a wonderful day!

It was cold and windy this morning (28 Fahrenheit with 30 - 40 mph winds). Decided to sleep in. Got up at 6:30. Great to sleep in!

Me and the guys from NC decided to go to the world famous Cowboy Cafe (see my post from earlier this year). We ate ourselves into a stupor, drank our fill of orange juice and/or coffee, I even got a doggy bag that became my lunch. Three grown men ate our fill and got doggy bags for $20. That includes tax and tip! What a bargain! Unfortunately if I ate like that all time, I'd be dead of a heart attack by next Wednesday.

The wind laid down this afternoon and we all headed out to our stands.

I got a real treat tonight. At about 5 o'clock, a very nice 8 point buck walked right by my stand. He gave me several opportunities to "harvest" him, but he needs a few more years, so I let him go. He proceeded to hurry out to my harvested soybean field and make 3 scrapes right in front of me.

A deer makes scrapes to communicate with other deer. A deer (buck and doe) will find a place with a low hanging branch, he will scrape away the leaves and dirt from the below the branch and then urinate on that spot. He will then rub his antlers on the overhanging branch, lick the branch, and rub hormones and scent all over the branch.

This way, other deer know he's been there. Does leave their scent their to let the bucks know that they are in estrus (ready to breed).

Its a real treat watching nature unfold before your eyes. To see squirrels run around crazy chasing each other, playing, fighting, quarreling, is real entertainment....until they interfere with the deer hunting.

A flock of turkeys came in behind me tonight too. They were wanting to cross the creek and roost in the tree's where I was hunting. I don't think they saw me, but they sensed something was up, and decided to the other way. They cackled, clucked, kee-kee'd, purred and just made a general commotion. A real treat to watch.

One of my buddies from NC capitalized tonight on a nice tasty 2 1/2 year old doe. We're having back straps tomorrow night! If you smell something good tomorrow night and the smell is coming from the direction of Missouri, its just the BBQ you should be here enjoying with us! Tenderloins on the grill!

Tomorrow for breakfast we're having the inner backstraps with eggs and fried potatoes. A good day to be hungry.

An opportunistic coyote got lucky tonight. My buddy who arrowed that doe (a perfect shot....a double bubble {double lung} that clipped the heart), and before he could find it, a coyote (or a few coyote's) had eaten the hind quarters out of it. I've never had that happen here before. We've never had a coyote problem, but this year it seems like we've got a lot more than in past years.

The coyotes seem to ebb and flow inversely to the rabbit population. The last few years we've had a lot of rabbits (and I do mean a lot). When the rabbit population is high, the coyote population is low. Then the coyote's begin to increase in numbers (as there is more food available - the rabbits). As the coyote's increase in numbers, the rabbits decrease in number. In a few years the coyote population will peak, and the rabbit population will be at a low. The lack of food will cause a coyote die off to occur. Then the rabbits will make a comeback....and the cycle will start all over again.

There are several market lessons in this post. But I'm just to tired to elaborate on them. There is something about being in the outdoors all day that makes me one tired hunter!

Tomorrow is shaping up to be a good day for hunting. Low temps in the mid 20's, highs around mid 40's. Cloudy, and only a slight breeze. Hopefully one of us will get shot at one of the big boys that inhabit my farm.

James Sogi responds:

We all live in different parts if the world. Things are different. Values are different. The coyotes are predators and compete with us. If they are out of balance they need to be thinned. We kill pigs, chickens, goat, turkey when they get out of balance or for food. We trap mongoose as they eat our chickens. I leave the hawks and owls alone. We have big fence traps and can get a litter of pigs at once. The hooks sound radical but are effective and cheap for large numbers of wily vicious coyote. Keep your dogs leashed though. We catch fish with hooks, then club them with bats and it works. No one worries PC about fish. The killing is part of life. Some leave the details to others at the stock yards. Its a jungle out there. If they could, they would eat you in a second. I learned this rule a long time ago, "No more Mr. Nice guy." I agree with Nigel. They will bite the hand that feeds for gives quarter, for that is their nature.

Scott, protect your farm and family. Don't apologize to us. Its no good if everyone is the same. Stick with your original position. Don't switch in the middle of the trade.

John Lamberg responds:

Barb-less hooks and catch and release are the techniques to use if one is fishing for sport. But if the goal is to provide a meal, then the hook needs to be well hidden and sized to the fish, and the barb needs to be razor sharp. Do fish feel pain? PETA says absolutely, and you better stop your cruelty now, and don't teach cruel techniques to children. What do I think as a fisherman? I think humans are at the top of the food chain and I don't care what PETA thinks. A fisherman does not really think of inflicting pain on a fish. If the meal is caught, the fisherman thinks about the best way to keep the meal fresh and then quickest method of death, a method that minimizes the clean-up.

If an undesirable species of fish infest a lake, then the most efficient means of eradication may be called for - poison the lake.

If coyotes are infesting your land, then I would say to use the most efficient means to fix the problem. But is the entire coyote population really the problem?

"Contrary to common belief, it usually is not a coyote with its teeth worn down or an old female feeding pups that kills livestock. The prime-of-life male coyote between the ages of 3 to 5 years old is most often the culprit when larger livestock are being killed. This includes goats, as well as large lambs, pigs and calves. This dominant male is stronger, more vigorous and more capable than older and younger males and females."

The hook technique does seem a bit radical. But how different is a hook in the mouth from a trap around the leg? Let's not sidestep the issue by saying that the hook technique is probably not effective. Let's say for the moment that the hook technique is the most effective means. Then it boils down to: Is the excess pain inflicted by the hook worth the efficiency?

If you were to make a trade that you know would bankrupt someone, would you not take it?

The President of the Old Speculator's Club responds:

I'm not buying Dylan's argument for a second. He obviously doesn't share his neighborhood with coyotes. I do and they are among the most lethal predators around. But they show no discrimination in choosing their prey. Tennessee has several reports year of one or more coyotes attacking children and stories of them snatching pets right out of the yard or off the porch are commonplace. Across the road from me Farmer Fritz lost everyone of his goats to coyotes last year. And these weren't those puny little nanny goats you generally see but big bruisers weighing in at a good 150-180 lbs. He also lost two of his Blue Heelers. These are cattle herding dogs (they nip at the heels of the cattle to get them going in the desired direction) that are half dingo and tough as hell. The only remnant coyotes leaves is generally the backbone; everything else is consumer (even vultures will not eat hair). Giving a coyote a "quick death" is much like belling the cat. They're basically nocturnal, hunt in packs, and never (in my experience) will take on a larger or more dangerous animal individually. This is a very practical approach. As in any pack, each member has an assigned task; to hunt successfully, each member must perform his or her function - one wounded (or dead) member can threaten the packs viability. Scott's story is unusual in that one coyote apparently wanted to take on his friend. That is not a good development in that it indicates the coyotes in his area are getting desperate for food. And to happen this early in the fall means Scott could be in for a very difficult winter if he doesn't do something. Prior to reading Dylan's post I emailed Scott off-list to find out if there's anyway I can do the same thing without endangering my own dogs. If there is, I will do the same thing. (And, although I have whitetails, quail, and turkeys all over my property I can no longer bring myself to hunt them - even though the deer are pests and account for Tennessee insurance companies biggest outlays for auto repairs.)

GM Nigel Davies replies:

Scott's fascinating hunting posts, and the offence they seem to have caused, got me thinking about life in general and my own game. Should the stronger player show mercy or do things in the most efficient way he can, even if this leads to suffering in the victim?

My own answer is simple. It's entirely up to him and there should be no pressure to do things in any other way than in his own best interest. If I play chess against someone, especially when money is involved, it could be that he will suffer emotionally, financially and even physically from my beating him (chess players often live on the bread line so it's not that hard to push them over). Now it could be that I am much stronger than he is and the odds are loaded in my favour. Does that make my victory any less ethical? Should I hold back and give him a chance? The answer in my mind is a very clear no. I am there to take the most efficient route to victory, full stop. I didn't force the other guy to choose his way of life, it's entirely up to him that he's there and dependent on chess prizes for his livelihood.

What I won't do is deliberately rub it in, at least if I can help myself. I'm not a good winner but I'll try to behave correctly after the game rather than going out to deliberately humiliate the guy. Not everyone does this and indeed we've seen some examples of really bad sportsmanship on this list. Why do I do this? In fact it's not really about sparing the feelings of an opponent, it's about my own emotional well being. Wanton cruelty and gloating affects your game, you can end up as a sadist rather than a player, and this in turn can have an effect on the efficiency of your play. So instead of choosing the best move you might start to think in terms of the cruelest. But this in turn can reduce your edge.

Now I don't hunt myself, but I can see many parallels between Scott's hunting, chess and markets. The goal within each of these fields is to become as efficient a predator as one can be, with no apologies necessary. If one chooses to be magnanimous and/or merciful then so be it. But this is a personal choice and should not a requirement of any game or its players, including those which involve very real life and death.

Scott Brooks responds:

It was a very difficult decision for me to write what I did, but I decided on posting the potential truth (I way potential because it hasn't happened yet...and may not) because the list thrives on honesty, knowledge, and real world information. The President of the Old Speculator's Club's reply of last night also gave some clarity to the issue too. The world of mother nature is not a safe one. It is often vicious, bloody and brutal. It is a world of fang, tooth and claw...a world without mercy.

Rick Foust adds:

After living 14 years within 100 miles of Scotts farm, and all my 50 years in an area where ranching is common and coyote hunting is a popular sport, I can say that the coyote population goes in cycles, but I have yet to see what I would call an infestation. Not that it cant happen. I just think most of the infestation stories are exaggerations. Nature has a way of taking care of these things. For example, a few years ago the mange wiped out the coyotes on my land (with no fur, they freeze to death in the winter). Then the rabbit population bloomed. Now the coyotes are back.

Coyotes look like dogs, especially in photographs and documentaries. It is easy to imagine them romping and playing. I enjoy watching and hearing them in the field. But they are not dogs, in the domestic sense. If you have ever looked into the eyes of a coyote or wolf as it surveys a herd for the weakest animal, or watched them tearing the flesh off the hindquarters of a (still alive) animal stuck in the mud, and seen the look of terror in that animal's eyes, you know what I mean.

In general, slaughtering livestock (or having livestock slaughtered) every year gives adult ranchers a rather utilitarian view of animal life. And most ranchers have raised a least one bottle fed calf sometime in their lives (probably as a child). They have also seen at least one calf torn limb from limb by coyotes. Some might have even seen their bottle fed calf shredded (if only in a child's nightmare). They also see frequent turnover of pets (thanks in part to coyotes). Excess litters of pets are summarily discarded. Life and death of animals is part of their daily experience.

The sentiment involved in the hook idea seems to me to be a lot like that experienced by a trader overstaying a good trade. That is to say there seems to be a self-righteous recklessness involved. Or more bluntly, it is going too far.

Tom Ryan replies:

I grew up in a very rural part of Arizona, and although coyote attacks on humans are very very rare, they are not unheard of, especially attacks on kids. Its been a few years since I wrote about it and we have a lot of new people on the list but after I returned from desert storm I picked up a foreclosed house courtesy of the pima savings & loan bankruptcy on 10 acres in the mountains west of Tucson. at that time our nearest neighbor was about a mile away so even though we owned only 10 acres we were quite isolated up in those hills. We built up an off-grid home there using traditional adobe with 18 inch thick walls, used solar, Yamaha generator, and trucking in water. We shared the mountain with bobcats, mountain lions, javelina, hawks, owls, snakes, gila monsters, and of course lots of coyotes. Generally the coyotes left us alone but there was one time when Wenda was about 8 months pregnant with Sydney, when we returned to the house at dusk after going out for some food. I helped Wen out of the truck and she started wattling up to the front door while I went over the greenhouse to shut the vents and keep the heat in for the night. This was March. Suddenly I hear this cacophony of the dogs barking(locked up inside the house) , woman screaming, and other indescribable noise. I ran straight over and saw three coyotes cornering Wen up against the house with their teeth bared. In those days I kept a loaded browning 9mm under the seat of the truck so I grabbed it and charged the coyotes at a full run. They didn't break and instead my charge triggered one them to attack her. I blasted away and killed two of them. Wen was frightened nearly to death but untouched. Don't know what happened to the third one. The behavior of those coyotes was so aggressive I called the county to come out and test the carcasses for rabies. but the results were negative. so I guess it was just a case of three desperate and very hungry coyotes. 

I also had an experience back in the '80s just across the border in the Pinacate Lava fields where we were camping out and got encircled by a large group who acted very aggressively towards us for several hours and kept us up all night. But now I am of the belief that those were Mexican grey wolves, not coyotes. Generally around here its the big cats you have to be wary of, but one should always be respectful of the possible danger that a starving, full of mange coyote can pose.

Dylan Distasio replies:

I would suspect crowd behavior in animals is very species specific, with a strong environmental component (i.e. availability of food supplies, geographical region, weather conditions, etc.)

For anyone interested, here's a link on coyote behavior in an urban setting in California, and the frequently resulting conflicts of human/coyote interactions.

As an aside to Scott, you may want to look into the use of leg traps in deterring additional coyotes from entering your territory. This article mentions some evidence of this technique being most effective in instilling fear into remaining animals. Lest this seem out of line with my earlier response, I would point out that they recommend using padded traps in the interest of humanness, even if the ultimate outcome of the trapping is a bullet to the head.

The article has quite a bit of information from an urban perspective, and has a plethora of studies on animal behavior (coyote in particular) in the references for those inclined to pursue the science behind the article.

A Brooks Farm Hunt Update, from Scott Brooks

We have some interesting things occur over the last few days.

Yesterday, we saw a wonderful sight. I beautiful 2 1/2 year old buck (the equivalent of a teenage boy) chasing a doe. He was a truly incredible 2 1/2 year old. He would probably score around 130 on the Boone and Crocket scale (a total of 130 inches of antlers). A very rare 2 1/2 year old indeed. With him, were two other bucks, both of them appeared to be 1 1/2 year olds (the equivalent of a boy just hitting puberty).

What's interesting about this is we really don't see any good bucks (3 /12 year of age or older with 150 inches of antler) chasing deer this time of year. Why? Lessons learned. The big boys know better than to waste energy chasing a doe that is not ready to be bred. The big boys are going around checking their scrape's (places on the ground where deer urinate and then lick overhanging branches). The scent of the scrape's tell the big boys if there is a receptive doe around.

Pecking order is pretty much established by this time, so the big boys wait around, sometimes prowl around, searching for receptive does by checking their scrape lines. They'll let the inexperienced "kids" use up their energy and expose themselves to danger (i.e. from hunters, cars, predators, etc.) while they move around in stealth mode.

Their desire to breed is high. Their desire to live is greater. 90% of all bucks killed are 2 1/2 years of age or less. Killing an old buck is a truly difficult task to accomplish. I'm not sure its fair to say that they "learn" from their mistakes (and the mistakes of the deer around them), but I think they do learn to some extent insomuch as their brain can learn.

As we watched this too brief display of "chasing" (they don't hang around to long once they know humans are watching....I guess they're modest about their "breeding activities" ;-), I thought of about the long list of mistakes I've made in my life at a young age, as a young financial professional, that could have cost me dearly....and some that did cost me dearly.

This morning, there was an interesting encounter too. A fellow spec lister was down hunting with me ("justaguy") and was up in one of his favorite stands. He did a little "rattling" (lightly clanking deer antlers together simulating a sparring match between two bucks), in hope of arousing the attention of other bucks in the area and bringing them in to watch and/or fight. Within a few minutes of starting a rattling sequence, two bucks came running in. One was merely a big bodied spike. The other was a very nice 120 class 1 1/2 year old. If the 130 class 2 1/2 year old is a rare deer, a 120 class 1 1/2 year old is even more rare. Justaguy was beside himself with temptation to whack the nice little buck. But he didn't. He knew the rules for hunting deer on my farm:

It must be at least 3 1/2 years old and have at least 140 inches of antlers. No ifs ands or butts.

The two young deer tempted him for almost a half an hour. Milling around under his stand browsing on the food plot. Justaguy had all he could do to restrain himself. But he did. It is definitely a sign of maturity to wait until the right "opportunity" comes along before you pull the trigger on the animal or on a trade. I've been in that position before. Each and every time I've pulled the trigger after spending time convincing myself that it was ok, when I knew it wasn't, was one that later left me with regret.

Then, this afternoon, I took my boys, David and Hunter (aka, Duece and Boosh), out for a last round of practice shooting.

Hunter who is normally an excellent shot, was having trouble. He seemed to develop a twitch. Well season starts tomorrow and I had to fix that

So I determined that a little deception was in order.

When he wasn't looking, I unloaded his gun. I gave it back to him empty (but he thought it was loaded). He lined for the shot, squeezed the trigger and....click....twitch/jerk/blink. He flinched big time.

He asked what was wrong. I told him he is flinching when he shoots and the gun knows he's flinching. He asked me what that meant. I told him that the gun will not fire if he twitches. So he's got to shot while holding perfectly steady or the gun knows not to go off.

So we tried it again. While Hunter was looking away, I pretended to load his single shot .243. I gave the gun to him and reminded him that the gun won't go off unless he holds steady. He pulled the trigger and flinched again.

We repeated the process around 10 times the same way. By the about the 8th time, he wasn't flinching at all. Finally after seeing him do it a few times without flinching, I put a bullet in. He put a great shot on the target!

I pretended to load the gun again a few more times to make sure that he wasn't going to flinch again. He didn't. He shot a few more times with the gun actually going off each time. He looked at me with a smile and said, "I must be shooting good because the gun is going off".

The innocence of 7 year olds!

Then came David's turn. He's 12. He watched the whole thing with Boosh and was having nothing to do with my tricks.

His first two shoots were consistently 6 inches low (right next to each other). Hmmmm. Maybe the gun isn't sighted in as well as I thought it was (I had just sighted it in on Thursday morning). So I took a shot. Bullseye. I took another shot. Bullseye.

David looked at me and said, "maybe the gun isn't off. Maybe it's me?" Do 'ya think ( said back to him).

So we got him set up to shot again and I went behind him with the gun and told him not to look. I told him that this way he would know if the gun is loaded or not.

We did this around 10 times with no bullets. Finally no twitches. Then a bullet was inserted in the breech. He got off a quality shot!

We reapeated this a few more times until he was consistently back to putting out successful shots.

Vic admonishes us to watch out for deceptions. I would like to point out that when used properly, deceptions can be a good thing.

The hunt starts at 7 am tomorrow morning. I'll update you all as the results.

As an aside. Here's a Bar B Que update: Tonight we're having BBQ'ed Elk tenderloins wrapped in bacon. Sides of mashed potatoes, corn, green beans and pork and beans! I'm saving internal space by not eating to ensure maximum intake tonite!