Horseshoe Curvetrainz Forge

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The lapping waves and silent dunes of the Delaware Bay shoreline create a perfect backdrop for a moonlit summer stroll. But a few weeks ago, this beach was not nearly so quiet. Instead, the silver light of the full moon shone upon jostling crowds of horseshoe crabs.

“If the crabs were rocks,” says Moses Katkowski, marine conservation coordinator with The Nature Conservancy, “you could walk on their backs the entire stretch of beach and never touch the sand.”

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Every year, they emerge from the depths for one reason and one reason only: sex.

Lots and lots of sex.

Long before Roman emperors threw outlandish orgies, horseshoe crabs — contemporaries of the first sharks, wooly mammoths, and now us — have been making annual migrations to the shore to forge their next generation.

Truth is, horseshoe crabs haven’t changed much over their time on Earth. The four living species today look much the same as their ancestors did nearly 400 million years ago. It’s likely they reproduce just like them, too. Which means horseshoe crabs may hold the record for longest-running sex parties on the planet.

But They’re Not Really Crabs at All

Distant relatives of true crabs, horseshoe crabs aren’t really crabs at all.

Flip over a horseshoe crab and the undercarriage-view of its six paired appendages reveals the resemblance of horseshoe crabs to their closest cousins: scorpions and extinct trilobites.

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The first pair of appendages is used for eating; the next four pairs are used for walking and each appendage ends in a small pincher-like claw that doesn’t pinch.

In males, the first pair of walking appendages is modified to aid in grasping the edges of a female’s shell. (More on that in a minute.) The last pair are “pushers,” which aid the crab in locomotion.

Male horseshoe crabs arrive just ahead of the females, forming a shifting boulder field that females must plow their way through to reach suitable nesting sites along the high-tide line. As they make their way, the smaller but determined males swarm the females, shoving and sliding, until one male can successfully grab onto her shell with his front legs and pull himself aboard.

A small notch at the front of the male’s helmet-like head can then latch onto the ridges on the female’s back. In this way, the two shells sort of fit together, like a tongue-and-groove joint.

But one attached male doesn’t dissuade others from attempting to climb on, too. And if they can’t get a hold on her, they just hang on to the dude in front. In this manner a female may drag along a chain-of-suitors to the shore.

For female horseshoe crabs, reproduction takes a bit of grit.

Once she reaches the wet sand, she digs a shallow nest and proceeds to lay a batch of several million eggs, which are immediately fertilized by the surrounding males.

Horseshoe Crabs and The Nature Conservancy

A stronghold of horseshoe crab mating, Delaware Bay is the site of active research to collect census data on the local — and threatened — species, Limulus polyphemus. The arrival of thousands of individual crabs every May and June gives scientists a rare but critical glimpse into population numbers, sex ratios, and other statistics needed for better management.

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As Patty Doerr, director of coastal and marine programs from The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey explains, “We need to be getting as much science to go into the management as possible. The decisions we make are only as good as the science that goes into them.”

This is why, during the full and new moons of late spring, the Conservancy joins with partner organizations to lead volunteers in conducting nighttime beach surveys of the frolicking horseshoe crabs.

Data collected from the spawning census is combined with data from offshore trawl surveys and harvest numbers to inform fisheries models run by the Atlantic State Fisheries Commission. Based on these models, the commission then sets the limit on how many horseshoe crabs can be caught.

The crab counts offer a chance for citizen scientists to witness an extraordinary cycle of life while contributing valuable data to help boost the sex life of one of nature’s most ancient mariners.

“It’s a really unique thing to see,” notes Katkowski, “Everyone has been to the beach, but 99 percent of the time you are not seeing this. But when you participate in a crab count, you are heading out at night, and there they are. Thousands of them.”

The beach itself turns mossy-green — colored by the billions of glimmering eggs laid by the female. Though much of this precious cargo remains safely buried beneath the sand, the bustling crowds of horseshoe crabs do churn things up. Smaller than a pencil eraser, these tiny spheres are everywhere — a critical link for survival. And not just for the horseshoe crab.

The Horseshoe Crab Egg Buffet

The endangered seabird species, the Red Knot, depends on the bountiful, nutritious eggs to refuel during its long migration from Tierra Del Fuego to the Canadian Arctic, a distance of more than 9,000 miles. Apple these schematic diagrams cover the following models.

Using long slender beaks to slurp up the eggs during layovers, the birds time their migration to coincide with this free all-you-can-eat-horseshoe-crab-egg buffet.

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As Moses notes, “You can see the crabs, see them spawning, and see the eggs. You can see the whole cycle and, if you go out, you see the birds, too.”

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It’s a rare chance to witness how the sex life of a marine species supports the reproduction of life above the surface.

Horseshoe Crab Blood Super Powers

Healthy horseshoe crab populations are something we all need. And like the Red Knot, humans have become highly dependent upon horseshoe crabs — not for food, but for their role in biomedical safety.

Anyone out there with an artificial hip, a replaced knee, a pin holding a broken ankle, owes their device’s safe use to the horseshoe crab. Or more precisely, their blood.

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Horseshoe Curvetrainz Forge

Horseshoe crab blood is a marvel, not just for its powder blue color but for its remarkable capacity to detect even the tiniest trace of bacterial contamination — up to one part per trillion. This amazing fluid is our only way of ensuring that everything from implants to serums is safe for injection into our own bodies. Thus, today, we have a fleet of trained horseshoe crab phlebotomists who every year harvest crabs and then, in a move that would send even Dracula squirming, drain their blood.

Although only a portion of each crab’s blood is removed, some recent studies show that the crabs may not be surviving the process, or if they do survive, they may not feel up to mating that same season.

This potential impact only contributes to a suite of threats that have pushed horseshoe crab populations down by more than 90 percent from their historic numbers. Overfishing (horseshoe crabs are also a popular bait source for whelk and eel fisheries) and habitat loss are the other leading causes of declines.

The good news is management actions in 2004 and 2006 seem to have helped populations level off. Given that horseshoe crabs don’t mature until they are about 10 years old, it’s not surprising that we haven’t seen a rebound yet … but it’s something the Conservancy continues to look for in the census data — data they’re analyzing now as this year’s horseshoe crabs head out to deeper waters and humans head in to the local beach.

PREMIER UPLAND BIRD HUNTING

‘Do it Yourself’ Package
  • $795.00 per person
  • $100.00 per non-hunter per night
  • $100.00 per hunter each extra night
  • $400.00 per person extra 1/2 day hunt 8am – 11:30am (ie: 2 nights & 1-1/2 day hunt $1,295.00 per person)
  • Includes complimentary lodging, bird package, guides/dogs, beverage package
  • Does not include meals or cook
  • Minimum of 6 hunters
Full Service Package
  • $895.00 per person per day
  • $150.00 per non-hunter per night
  • $150.00 per hunter each extra night
  • $400.00 per person extra 1/2 day hunt 8am – 11:30am (ie: 2 nights & 1-1/2 day hunt $1,445.00 per person)
  • Includes complimentary lodging, bird package, guides/dogs, food & beverage shopping & delivery package, cook referral
  • Minimum party size – 3 hunters

**Exclusive use of lodge requires a minimum of 8 hunters (less than 8 is non-exclusive). Please note: We require a $500.00 per person non-refundable deposit for either package to hold your spot (due within 14 days of booking).

Extras
  • $2.50 per cleaned and vacuum packaged bird
  • Non-hunters $100.00 per night (‘Do it Yourself’ Package) and $150.00 per night (Full Package)
  • Hen Package ($17.00 per hen)
  • Extra Roosters ($25.00 per bird)
  • Shells: Trap loads ($9.00 per box), Pheasant loads ($14.00 per box)
  • Guided 1/2 day boat duck hunt (instead of upland) – $100.00 extra per person (please call ahead and we counsel you on availability & flights)
  • Guided 1/2 day walleye fishing (instead of upland) – $100.00 extra per person
  • Steelhead fishing – the run usually starts mid-November and runs through March (call regarding river conditions)

SELF GUIDED HUNTS – HENDRICKSON LODGE

Housing in Hendrickson Lodge located 2 miles west of Main Lodge. Hunting directly out of your door on our expanded property. 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house with kitchen, game room & garage boarding for your dogs. Also includes cooking utensils, dinnerware, basic condiments, coffee/coffee makers, bar-b-que.

Hendrickson Lodge DIY Meals Package

  • $650.00 per person
  • $75.00 per person each extra night
  • $300.00 per person extra 1/2 day hunt 8am – 11:30am (ie: 2 nights & 1-1/2 day hunt $1,050.00 per person)
  • Includes complimentary lodging, bird package
  • Does not include guides, dogs, beverages, food, cook, bird cleaning
  • Minimum party size – 3 hunters
  • Guide/dogs can be arranged for $75.00 per person per day (min of 3 hunters per guide)

Please note: We require a $300.00 per person non-refundable deposit to hold your spot at the Hendrickson Lodge (due within 14 days of booking).

PREMIER DEER HUNTING

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Archery Package

August 25th (5 day hunt) – arrive Friday, August 24th

  • $2,995.00 per person
  • Includes lodging, food & beverage shopping package, cook referral
  • Permanent & pop-up blinds
  • Deer scouting
  • Assistance with deer dressing, quartering, hanging
  • Cold storage for carcass
Rifle Package

September 29th (5 day hunt) – arrive Friday, September 28th

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  • $3,295.00 per person
  • Includes lodging, food & beverage shopping package, cook referral
  • Permanent & pop-up blinds
  • Deer scouting
  • Assistance with deer dressing, quartering, hanging
  • Cold storage for carcass

Extras

  • Cow Elk – $1,500 per person (2 night & 2-1/2 day hunt)
  • Includes lodging and transportation to and from hunting grounds
  • Permanent & pop-up blinds
  • Deer scouting
  • Assistance with deer dressing, quartering, hanging
  • Cold storage for carcass

*NOTE: All big game must be taken to your own processor or processed yourself.

FISHING PACKAGES

We specialize in Walleye fishing. With a brand new custom built 25′ Walleye boat.

Full Service 2 Day Fishing Package

  • $995.00 per person
  • 2 day guided Walleye fishing (6 hours each day) 6am – 12pm
  • All fishing gear complimentary
  • Lodging at Horseshoe Curve Riverview Lodge
  • Food & beverage shopping & delivery package*
  • Lodge approved cook
  • Minimum party size – 3 fishermen

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*Food & beverage shopping & delivery package includes: We will shop for & deliver to the lodge your food & beverages. In this package, you have hired a lodge approved cook to prepare your meals & clean up after. Fishing package meals include – continental breakfast, mid-morning sack brunch, hot lunch upon return & full dinner in evening.

2 Day ‘Do it Yourself’ Fishing Package
  • $895.00 per person
  • 2 day guided Walleye fishing (6 hours each day) 6am – 12pm
  • All fishing gear complimentary
  • Lodging at Horseshoe Curve Riverview Lodge
  • You are responsible for all of your own meals & beverages
  • Minimum party size – 3 fishermen