Sighting-in The Guns For Next Week’s Deer Opener

I’ve decided to dedicate today’s blog to some images of last year’s sighting-in day in preparation for the Minnesota deer opener that occurs next Saturday. The pictures shown were actually shot from last year’s event…as today’s sighting in day was rainy, windy and otherwise too miserable for the cameraman. Enjoy!








© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Timberdoodles Still Sticking Around

Today when I was out doing a little scouting for the upcoming deer season next week I happened upon one of the more encouraging sights I’ve seen in the woods lately. As I walked through an area that was quite muddy with a mix of corn/woods, I flushed up several Timberdoodle, or American Woodcock, as they are commonly named.

At first glance I was surprised to still see woodcock as you wouldn’t normally expect them flittering about as the calendar is about to turn to the month of November. Then I quickly thought about the mud I was walking through and figured this had to be a prime area for these probe-feeding birds. In most years the woodcock would be migrating out of Minnesota as soon as the first few frosts begin turning the ground hard. This year, that just hasn’t been the case quite yet.

The woodcock is an interesting bird because it has a voracious appetite for worms. In fact, it dines almost exclusively on worms using its long probe of a beak to snatch its prey from several inches deep. This proficient little worm gatherer will often dine on nearly its own weight in worms each day of its life. Then when the ground becomes hard or dry…and worm gathering becomes difficult, the bird tends to move on to new areas.

The woodcock has long been considered by the experts to be an indicator species in the woods. Indicator meaning that usually when you observe a woodcock it means the local environment is in relatively good health. When chemicals and land practices start affecting its food source, you simply will not see many woodcock frequent a given area. Therefore, if you develop land practices that encourage the existence of woodcock you are likely also taking measures to be good stewards of the land.

I enjoy seeing woodcock because they seem to have a tendency to flush almost in front of your face. While many game birds will flush and be out of gun range within a few split seconds…the woodcock gives you a true sporting chance. Now that doesn’t mean, however, they are an easy bird to bag. Typically this chunky-appearing bird will launch itself airborne and flutter off for only a short distance…and it doesn’t always do so in a straight line, either.

I also enjoy listening to the sound of a woodcock when it takes to flight. The rapidly beating wings almost make the bird sound like its whistling, or at least making a buzzing type sound. But this is a bird that is truly famous in the springtime for its romantic “kissing” sounds and the aerial acrobatic courtship ritual. Perhaps this is why some people call the American Woodcock the “Whistledoodle.”

I suspect that most of the woodcock hunting in Minnesota is done incidental to hunting other species. As I think back over my sporting career, I cannot think of any hunter who proclaimed to me that he was going out Timberdoodle hunting exclusively. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen…but I can suggest it doesn’t occur with large masses of people each fall here in Minnesota…not like in the southern states during the winter months where hunting woodcock is quite popular.

I can honestly say I have never shot or even shot at a woodcock while out in the fields pursuing my sporting interests. I guess it’s one of those game birds for which I have not developed much of a hunting passion. Nevertheless, when I happen upon a woodcock I do very much admire the uniqueness of this game animal. It just dawned on me that seeing a woodcock this late in the season can be an indicator for one other thing…that being what a wet and warm fall season we’ve obviously been experiencing here in southeastern Minnesota.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Once In Awhile Every Sportsman Needs A New Gun

It must be about six months ago when I first started contemplating a purchase of a new gun. Typically for me a new gun has had a specific purpose in mind…like the .243 I purchased a decade ago for antelope hunting…or the .223 with a high-powered scope that was a necessity for prairie dogs…or perhaps the 7mm Rem. Mag. I had to have for northern Minnesota deer hunting. Each of these purchases involved a desire first and foremost, followed by quickly convincing myself that the desire had turned into a definite need.

This time around, however, my gun purchase did not involve a specific hunting endeavor. Instead, I have been dreaming about owning a new handgun for no other reason than to have fun doing a little target practice with friends. Oh sure, the handgun might come in handy some day for self-defense, but that was not my primary motivation for the purchase even though I do hold a concealed carry permit here in Minnesota. Today was the monumental day as I finally purchased a new Glock 23, a semi-automatic handgun in the .40 S&W caliber.

I noticed when I brought the gun home I just admired it much like a child has that little gleam in their eye as they stare at a cache of toys received at Christmastime. No, I’m not some gun fanatic. Rather, I happen to believe that a new gun purchased should give the buyer a great deal of satisfaction or the purchase was probably not necessary.

Several years ago I asked a good friend of mine how his wife lets him get away with buying so many guns all the time. His response was one that I will always remember. He said the key is to have so many guns in your collection when you marry, that she won’t notice when another gun or two gets added. He went on to say the problem is if you only own just a few guns then when a new gun shows up it can be easily detected by an observant spouse. On the other hand, if you have at least 30 or 40 guns it just looks to most spouses like a collection of guns they will likely avoid.

Another friend of mine has a different angle on bringing a new gun home. His tactic, although slightly deceptive, involves telling his spouse that he won the gun at a conservation banquet. He might purchase the gun and store it at a buddy’s house until the night of the banquet…then he goes home with the purchase…{clearing throat} I mean, prize…that he won at the banquet. Sure, it isn’t the most honest way to bring a new gun into the home…but after all, having a new gun accepted at home for some folks can be a major hurdle.

I remember reading once of a guy who was always asked by his wife how much money he spent on that new gun. When he told her (she had no concept of gun prices) it was always several hundred dollars less than the actual price paid. The story goes on with the sportsman stating his biggest fear was that when he died he didn’t want his wife liquidating his gun collection for the price he told her he paid for each gun. Indeed, how many people have you known who has received a gun at an unbelievable price because the owner had died and the seller had no concept of what the true value was for the gun?

Several years back I attended a seminar given by an avid gun collector who spoke on the virtues of owning a fine firearm. His contention was that every sportsman should consider owning one very fine firearm of the Parker or Perazzi class of shotguns. His seminar described all the intricacies of how to find the right gun…but essentially his argument was if you buy carefully and pay $10,000 or more for a fine shotgun…it will never lose its value. In fact, quite the opposite…it will appreciate in value over time much like a vintage car. Oh sure, you wouldn’t hunt with a gun of that ilk all the time…but consider how much fun it would be to take a fine firearm out pheasant hunting just because you feel like doing it on some given day.

I happen to believe you can tell a lot about a person just be looking at their collection of guns. Mine, for instance, is rather eclectic as I have rifles, pistols and shotguns of many calibers and makes. Others I know tend to be more specific in their purchases. I have one friend who only buys Colts…another who buys Remington products almost exclusively. Much like a couple of friends arguing over who makes the best car…gun owners can have lots of fun, as well as take great pride with their collections.

Okay, I’ve waited long enough…you’re going to have to excuse me now while I go outside to play with my new Glock. You see, I just had to buy the gun because in a few short months I’m getting married and I needed this new gun to further build up my collection. After all, I’m still a few guns short of hitting the milestone mark of 30 guns recommended by my friend. Hmmm…I don’t suppose Cabela’s or Gander Mountain has a wedding gift registry…do they?

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.