Dentist bags a rarity with piebald deer

OUTDOORS

December 22, 2005|By CANDUS THOMSON

For a reporter, the best way to get a good story is to shut your mouth and open your ears.

But this month's best tale came while my mouth was wide open. Not that I had a choice.

Michael Ramsey is a dentist who practices and lives in Columbia. He's also a heck of a deer hunter.

With nothing else to do while he was drilling a hole the size of a Buick in one of my molars - just kidding, doc - I attempted to ask Ramsey why he was moving so gingerly.

"Stho, I thsee yur imping. A sthkiing athident?"

As he filled my tooth, the West Virginia native filled me in on a Thanksgiving Day hunting trip during which he shot a white-tailed piebald deer. The venison is in the freezer and the shoulder mount is being worked on by a taxidermist.

Piebalds, which sport a coat of primarily white, are like does with antlers, turkey hens with beards, the Orioles with a winning season. Unusual, to say the least.

The funky-looking deer are the result of bad genes. They tend to be smaller than the usual white-tailed, have stumpy legs and are often hard of hearing (sounds like my Uncle Walter).

A couple years back, John Herbert, a Pasadena bowhunter, killed an eight-point piebald in Calvert County that weighed about 160 pounds. So not every piebald is a runt.

While I leaned into the spit sink, Ramsey continued his story. Seems he was back home ground hunting with a buddy in Harrison County, when they heard a ruckus in the brush to their right. A piebald bolted about 25 yards ahead and ran down a hill and into a valley.

Ramsey's friend fired four times without success. The good doctor carefully trotted down the hill and looked around. A recent snow made picking out the deer as tough as finding a quarterback for the Ravens.

"I thought I was looking at a patch of snow. I looked through my scope and saw it," he said.

He fired once across the valley, a shot of about 120 yards, and brought the deer down. Field dressed, it was about 100 pounds.

"That's the first time I've seen a piebald. The ears were so big that I thought it was a mule deer," said Ramsey, who has been hunting about 30 of his 40 years.

The doctor and his buddy dragged the carcass out along a right-of-way. On the way, Ramsey stumbled on something hidden in the snow that left him lame.

"I call it revenge of the piebald," he concluded.

"Abtholutely, Dr. Ramthy," I replied.

Menhaden misery

What are we to make of this?

The man who controls the corporation that owns Omega Protein wants out of the menhaden fishing business.

Malcolm Glazer, owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the one-time soccer powerhouse Manchester United, has announced he wants to sell his 60 percent share of Omega.

The company that produces heart-healthy omega-3 fish oil and animal feed lost $6.1 million in the third quarter this year. Omega had an operating loss of $8.2 million over the first nine months of the year.

After two lousy years of fishing, the company's fortunes took another hit this summer when Katrina and Rita ripped through the Gulf and battered its processing plants.

Glazer, a nincompoop if ever there was one, paid $1.5 billion this year to take control of the soccer club, which promptly turned around and fell out of contention for the annual European soccer tournament for the first time in a decade.

Sponsors fled. Bills came due.

Glazer first sold his interest in an airbag manufacturer (it takes one to know one, Malcolm) for $51.2 million and now wants to unload Omega, the Chicago Cubs of commercial fishing.

Why should anyone here care?

Well, Glazer has to find a taker. The logical buyer might be a competitor, such as Cargill Foods or Archer Daniels Midland. But you can't rule out the possibility that the cash-strapped Glazer might sell off the company piecemeal. And that might put the Reedville, Va., plant in play.

Although Reedville turns out twice as much fish oil as any of Omega's other plants, there's the pesky matter of a looming five-year cap on the amount of menhaden that the company's fleet can scoop from Chesapeake Bay.

A showdown is likely between the regional regulatory board that imposed the cap and the Virginia legislature, which has to approve regulations. If lawmakers fail to act, the U.S. Commerce Secretary could shut down the whole Chesapeake Bay menhaden fishery.

Ken Hinman, president of the National Coalition for Marine Conservation, has written to Gov.-elect Tim Kaine to urge compliance, but with an agenda full of campaign promises to fulfill, menhaden isn't likely to be a front-burner issue.

What Omega suitor would want that baggage? Maybe Glazer's best bet is to sell the Gulf Coast fish business intact and find someone else for the waterfront property on Virginia's historic Northern Neck.

Condos, anyone?

Hunger in their sights

Every hunting season for the past three years, members of the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore have boasted, "We shoot the heart out of hunger."

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