The Fish Story

Antlered Squirrels Come Under Fire During Family Day; Wooden Jetty/Wall/Groin Complex Ready to Pound Sand

By JAY MANN | Feb 20, 2019

Not long ago, I was asked to hype the state’s first sanctioned squirrel hunt, held last weekend at the Inskip Antler Hunting Club, Winslow Township. I balked. Firstly, I had trouble figuring out how the club’s “Antler” angle fit into a squirrel hunt. Of course, I’m not overly familiar with squirrel breeds over there in Winslow, Camden County. In our parts, I’m betting I would have noticed something like a 12-point buck squirrel teetering on the bird feeder. Over toward Inskip, it might an everyday sight.

The antler club called its daylong event the First Annual Family Squirrel Classic. I kid you not. I guess it was meant to align the squirrel dusting with its website theme of being “a family and friends-oriented hunting club.” It was a happy little hunt. How would Bob Ross have handled that?

To keep the event highly squirrely, the Inskip Club offered instructional classes on how to clean squirrels – possibly hosted by a guy named Clem, whose wife, Anna Pearl, spiced things up with recipes on cooking the mini-meats that come with a done-proper-like squirrel butchering. Someone at the event went as far as calling squirrels “Chicken of the Trees.” Um-um.

Now, had I gone to the event, I would have taught those folks a paying skill, like carving tiny wooden plaques to mount those squirrel heads on. There’s a mint to be made there. Surely you’ve seen those shows about people moving into “tiny houses” – with tiny little walls. That’s squirrel-mount territory. Cha-ching, childrens.

Per news reports, the public reaction to the hunt included a spattering of “Oh, how cute,” a load of “WTF!?” head shakings and, most notably, at least three dozen enraged animal rights types hellbent on crashing the whole affair. The pro-squirrel demonstration was led by the New Jersey League of Humane Voters, which called it “a killing contest.” Protest signs read “OH YOU MUST BE INBRED” and “GOOD JOB ON RAISING FUTURE SERIAL KILLERS.”

Hunting club spokesman Cody McLaughlin told the NY Post the protesters were screaming “Murderer!” at little kids in the parking lot.

Targeting the squirrel shoot, protester Jay Lassiter told on-scene media, “We’re disturbed at the very idea. It’s very disconcerting the idea of it being a family-friendly event. Look at the strong correlation of kids who commit violence against animals as children and then grow up to be violent against people. This event is abhorrent, and it doesn’t belong in New Jersey and it doesn’t belong in a modern civilized society.”

The NRA returned fire by thoroughly supporting any kid-level shooting of sundry critters. “The pursuit of squirrels and rabbits is as close as the hunting world comes to offering a video-game-like experience, so it’s fair to say it: Small-game hunting yields big hunting action.”

Ah, trying to pull kids off all that violence on videogames. Nicely done. Hey, wait a minute …

Meeting my own thinking somewhere in the middle, I’m sure a hunt wouldn’t hurt, so to speak. There’s no shortage of squirrels out there, especially on the roadway in front of my truck. However, in the societal scheme of things, good-old squirrels have become a much-accepted lifeform, seen as a harmless wildlife interloper – despite Geico commercials portraying them as conniving car-crash causers. Come to think of it, had the antler club portrayed the hunt as a way to lower insurance rates … I’m listening.

At some point, I must make a squirrel confession. During my grandpa’s younger days in western Virginia, he was a crack squirrel hunter. However, that was back when squirrels would jump out of the trees and try to rip your neck open – at least that’s how Grandpap told it to us kids. “So, I’m walkin’ back from the still when I hear this rustlin’ in the trees … and I knew it tweren’t no wind gust …”

As to event’s squirrel tally, the “Classic” produced a grand total of three, uh, weigh-ins. Hell, I don’t know what you call shot-up squirrels. And, no, I didn’t mean three dozen, or even 300. The antler club kids dusted just three grays. Hell, I get more than that knocking at the back door when the birdfeeder runs dry. The take didn’t make for much of a post-hunt banquet. Of course, we can relate, striper-wise.

By the by, I’m sympathetically attuned to anyone needing wildlife meat for survival. That said, I doubt many folks will go to bed hungry tonight if not for “Rocky” kebabs. Yes, Rocky of “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show” was a squirrel. In fact, a squirrel hunt back in the day could have been both a cartoon series ender and a child traumatizer. “Oh, my lord, Lyle, you went and killed Rocky! Better grab your moose gun, kid. There’s gonna be hell to pay.”

As to those hunting kids being called “Murderers!” … that sucks! However, those young’uns did get educational insights into the odd intricacies of today’s crazed and complex society. Grow up and smell the goons.

Note: I won’t be hyping next year’s squirrely “Classic.” As to those of you who hunt squirrels to eat, maybe try to stick with shooting just the bucks. And don’t forget to send me those heads for mounting. I’ve been eyeing a mighty fine “tiny house” in Costa Rica. So maybe it’s cardboard – but, oh, the view.

GROIN A GROANER?: The Holgate Terminal Groin, aka Wooden Jetty (Wall), is not as aesthetically displeasing or outwardly invasive as I first envisioned. It extends into the ocean only as far as Wooden Jetty extends. The famed surfing “jetty” remains fully in place and intact – at least for this phase of the groin growth. Yes, there might very well be sundry phases to come.

I’ll bet the eelgrass farm that this now-finalized phase is going to be as problematic as curative. It was built on the theory that tons of southward-moving beach sand pass through gaping cracks in Wooden Jetty. To be sure, the old girl is missing a few boards, meaning that in a nice way. But are her age-related gaps enough to allow free passage of entire replenished beaches to the north? Sounds highly unlikely.

Doing an end-around, I can make a case that the meatiest transport of sand occurs farther out than the new build. Massive amounts of sand follow the sandbar line. This means beachworths of sand won’t break a sweat passing around the far east end of the Wooden Jetty Complex.

A terminal groin worthy of serious sand stoppage would have to range much farther out to sea, onto the current sandbars. Out there it would better foil north-to-south sand migration. Obviously, new sandbars would then form farther off groin’s end, but hefty amounts of beach sand would be locked into place to the north, just what Holgaters want.

Standing next to the Wooden Jetty Groin/Wall Complex, there is a ton of water to its immediate south, and it’s apparently on the move westward. As proof, more and more of those lovely concrete chunks have begun to be exposed by erosion. It is the expected enhanced erosion on the lee side of the groin. Yes, there is some trucked-in sand soon arriving. In very short order, south winds will scarf it up and spit it out farther south. By as early as this fall, the buggying entrance could be under attack. Things might even revert to the not-that-distant time when the township had to routinely plow nearby sand into place so vehicles – especially those of an emergency nature – could access the beachline of the far south end.

BIG FIX MEANS BIG DEBATE: When the overall Beach Haven/Holgate beachline erosion gets nasty enough, the feds will step in with one of their heavy-duty replenishments, per a long-term contractual promise. If so, an old and ruinous beach bugaboo will rear up. It concerns the state-owned beaches adjacent to the Forsythe Refuge.

To date, beach replenishments have had to stop on a dime at a beach point aligned with the refuge’s northern boundary. Such a sudden stoppage of beach-repair sand is counter to accepted replenishment stratagems. The tag-end of a fill should be gradually tapered for a mile or more, extending the sand placement well south of the refuge’s north border, albeit on state land. To such a sand extension, the refuge has historically said “Nope,” primarily based on the summer activities and proclivities of nesting piping plovers.

As to how the refuge, i.e, the feds, can halt Island-saving sand from being placed on state beaches, that gets stickier than drying resin. Per state documentation, the rights of access to and use of tidal waterways and their shores are afforded by the Public Trust Doctrine. While the Garden State constitution declares all beaches below the mean high tide line belong, in perpetuity, to its people, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, which runs the National Refuge System, readily says, “Au contraire, dude.”

In the case of the Forsythe Refuge’s Holgate Wilderness Area – secured by surfcasting U.S. Sen. Edwin B. Forsythe – the USFWS can seemingly ride roughshod over state-level constitutional maxims. In this instance, it can likely evoke both the Endangered Species Act and the Wilderness Act – just for starters.

How exactly do those federal acts intercede? In the most simplistic terms, if actions on state lands or waters adjacent to the refuge could conceivably – or even convolutedly – be perceived as impacting the refuge’s fulfillment of either of those acts, the USFWS can step in and exert its fed-first powers. With piping plovers in mind, it kills two birds (acts) with one stone.

Note: If Holgate was just an everyday piece of Forsythe Refuge property, we might not be having this in-depth of a discussion. However, Sen. Forsythe fought like hell to assure longtime surfcasting salvation for Holgate. He was ecstatic when he managed to get it designated as a Wilderness Area. He could never have seen how that would come back to bite the very people he was saving it for: his angler buddies. But I digress.

Interestingly, Holgate is not just a state vs. feds thing. The quite-federal Army Corps has itself been foiled from fulfilling its sworn duties to properly and effectively replenish the LBI beaches. Needing to dead-stop any sand placement at the refuge line foils the larger-picture hydrological game plan behind reducing erosion along the entirety of a rebuilt shoreline. The two agencies have locked horns over the Holgate issue.

CHANGES IN THE REPLEN AIR?: Might the next replenishing of Holgate find a more accommodating USFWS when it comes to moving sand south?

I’d like to make a just-sayin’ case for allowing the next replen to extend a mile (or more) farther south of the Wooden Jetty Wall. With plovers in heart and mind, I can assure this would create the greatest plover nesting habitat the New World has ever seen. I’m serious. Piping plovers covet new sand. A pump onto state beach land would create acres and acres of prime nesting digs.

And there’s more, ploverishly thinking. The built-up beach would also help buffer and protect the current plover-friendly digs on the north part of the Forsythe Refuge. Thereabouts, erosionesque ocean/bay washover areas have become a habitat hit with the small shorebirds. Problematically, those washover sands are currently spookily vulnerable to washover threats, primarily via bayside flooding. Since plover nesting is done right where washover potential is the highest, even a minor summer storm could instantly obliterate an entire generation of eggs or chicks. More sand toward the ocean would draw the plover parents that way since they’re wrackline feeders. Higher up they’d be better off.

The placement of a 100-yard wide, 1-mile long swath of replenishment sand adjacent to the refuge would protect plovers and allow for the proper tapering of the entire Beach Haven/Holgate replenishment project. It all seems so simple to me.

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