Year In Review – Top Ten Sportsmen Events (As I See Them)

As 2004 draws to a close I would like to chronicle the top ten outdoor news events as I see them (or better yet, as I remember them).   As you will note these listings have a definite slant toward Minnesota issues, but I did throw in a few with national significance, as well.

#10.  Flying Asian Carp Found In Lake Pepin:   

    We were first warned of the potential dangers of what could happen to the aquatic ecosystem if several Asian Carp species are allowed to migrate further upstream in the Mississippi River.   At first it was almost comical to see the video on the news of this Asian Flying Carp that literally will jump out of the water prompted apparently by boat motors.   Then, we were told just how dangerous these fish could be to the ecosystem as they are voracious foragers that will compete with native (more desired) species.

9.  Coyotes Invading the Twin Cities:

     Back in early December it was first brought to the attention of TV news viewers how urban growth was encroaching on wildlife habitat.   WRONG!!!   Those of us who know about the population explosion of coyotes in Minnesota during the past 25 years know it is the coyote that is invading us.   A mere quarter century ago this canine was limited mostly to just a select few counties in the western portion of the state…today the coyote can be found in EVERY county in Minnesota’s diverse landscape.   All 87 counties from the agricultural belt to the deep forested areas of northern Minnesota now play host to this predator.   It is the coyote that is just beginning to conflict with our urban cities, and my prediction is within 5 years it will be black bear invading the Twin Cities as wild populations are on the move expanding their normal ranges.

8.  Minnesota Celebrates First Dove Season:

     For the first time in over 30 years Minnesota hunters joined the vast majority of other states who hold a mourning dove season.

7.  No Fatal Hunting Accidents:

    Not since 1998 has Minnesota gone without any hunting fatalities in the state.   When you consider this means that over 500,000 hunters toting guns did not negatively make the news by accidentally shooting another hunter…this deserves to be celebrated.   It shows that hunter education does work because if you were to compare this with accident records from 40 years ago you would see it was not uncommon for as many as 10 Minnesota hunters to die each fall in hunting-related accidents.

6.  Minnesota sues North Dakota in Federal Court:

    Minnesota becomes the first state to file a lawsuit against another state over hunter discrimination.   There were five counts or claims of the discrimination which all fall under the Interstate Commerce Clause; Discriminatory Season Opening Date, Discriminatory Geographic Restrictions, Discriminatory Treatment of Nonresident Landowners, Discriminatory Access to Public Lands, Discriminatory License Fees.   At the time of this writing I am not sure where this Federal Court case stands.   (Steve, can you help out??)

5.  U.S. Outfitters Lawsuit:

    In a somewhat similar issue to the one we just discussed, here a commercial interest sued the State of Arizona and eventually won in the 9th Circuit Court on a case of discrimination against non-resident hunting opportunities.   Stay tuned, these issues are only going to get more prevalent in the years to come as more states try to protect their resources for their residents…and non-residents want the same opportunities as residents.

4.  Humane Society of U.S. & Fund For Animals Merge:

    Two well-funded anti-sportsman groups combine forces to mount an attack against bowhunting.   Watch for this developing story that is going to pit sportsmen against antis in a battle the likes of which we have not seen in over 20 years.

3.  Poor Duck Hunting:

    This past fall proved to be one of the worst duck hunting seasons on record for Minnesota hunters.   Very few hunters experienced a banner year, and from most reports it was a dismal year due to many factors.   The future of duck hunting in Minnesota at this point is not looking bright, so we expect several meetings and symposiums in the coming months to address the problem.

2.  Re-election of President Bush:

    This blog site made no bones about who we supported in the past presidential election, and because it consumed so much of the media coverage for over a year…I rank this as the runner up story effecting sportsmen during 2004.   I truly believe, as I have previously stated, that the choice in candidates was quite clear.   Gun owners especially rejoiced in the re-election of President Bush.

1.  Wisconsin Hunting Killings:

    And finally, the number one story of the year that will undoubtedly have long-term effects for all of us in the future, comes from Wisconsin with the slayings of the deer hunters in rural Sawyer County.   This high-profile case has been described by some as the “9/11 for hunters,” and by all accounts it might affect some change in all of our attitudes toward issues of trespassing and the Hmong culture integrating into our outdoor society.   Stay tuned.

    All in all, 2004 was an interesting year in many ways for sportsmen.   If you disagree with my listing, please leave a comment and tell me how you would rate the top stories of 2004.   I’m interested to hear how you might have seen things differently.

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

Spending Time With Family & Friends

When I was younger Christmas was about all the excitement evolving around the gifts under the tree.   Back then, my main concern was how I would deal with the disappointment of not getting all the gifts that were on my gift list.   As I recall, I would console myself by the realization that I have a birthday only two weeks after Christmas…so certainly if I didn’t get the gift for Christmas the missing item must have surely gotten bumped to birthday gift status.

Oh how priorities change over the years.   As I recall life has always been more than generous to me.   Even back in the days when my parents were, shall we say, a bit challenged for money they made certain that Christmas was special with the blessings of many gifts under the tree and a special time shared with family.

But over the years I guess it’s a sure sign of aging, but the true meaning of the Christmas season has come into clearer focus for me.   Sure, yesterday in my blog I wrote of the special moment of giving my nephew his first gun…but at Christmastime there is another gift that many people take for granted, yet I think we all need to better appreciate and understand.   It is the gift of sharing one’s time and doing so with close family and friends.

Indeed, my life has gotten more complex over the past few years now that I have a special person in my life.   Actually, to be correct I should say special “people.”   It was about one year ago when I got engaged just before Christmas to a wonderful lady named Roberta.   Roberta also has a very special son named Luke.   Together, in about 10 weeks from now, we will all become a family as we get married and embark on a new life together.

I can honestly say that getting to know Roberta’s family has been nothing short of a wonderful experience.   For me, it is so interesting to be part of creating new memories and traditions as I expand on what Christmas has always meant to me in the past.   Sometimes blending old traditions with new ones is not always easy, but so far things have worked out quite nice for all of us.

Over the years my personal family has down-sized both through death and divorce.   It can be sad, but it also reinforces in your mind how important it is to appreciate what you have before it is gone.   And there is no better time of the year to celebrate that appreciation than at Christmas.   I guess you could say it is one of the last holidays that forces each of us in our busy lives to make time to spend with family and close friends.

Still, I don’t always wear my beliefs on my sleeve for others to see…but I never lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas, either.   We learn the story even before we enter school of how Jesus was born…and what a wonderful story it is.   Certainly the true reason why most of us Christians celebrate Christmas is not eclipsed by glitzy store sales promotions or fancy outdoor lights with one household trying to outdo the next.   It is to celebrate the birth of our dear savior, Jesus the Christ our Lord.

For me, if you have good health, close friends who care about you and a bright outlook for the future what more could you possible want for Christmas.

In my life, the next few months and years hold so much promise to be an exciting and wonderful period of time in my life.   Even though Christmas is soon over for yet another year…part of me thinks that for me Christmas marks only the beginning for some exciting and challenging times soon ahead in my life.   Truthfully, I feel blessed to share this Christmas season with the wealth and good blessings of what God has placed in my life.

Here’s hoping that during this Christmas season it has brought you closer to the ones you love and that your life has been filled with many good blessings.   MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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

Awesome, This is Awesome!!!

“Awesome, this is awesome!!”   Those were the words uttered by my 19 year old nephew when he opened his final gift of this evening.   Up until that time he was probably figuring that the family gift givers were a little stingier than normal this year…but those thoughts were soon erased.   Indeed, Neil’s final gift of this evening proved to be none other than my nephew’s very first gun.   It was a special moment that both nephew and uncle alike will remember for a lifetime.

Rewind life about 25+ years and I recall how my “Christmas gun” came about.   I was a bit more sneaky than most.   I actually employed the heartstrings of two of my older cousins to work over my mother, of sorts.   I knew that being a single mother she would not want her teenage son to have something as dangerous as a shotgun…but my cousins were able to convince her otherwise.

Indeed, my cousins Gary and Jim were both about 20 years older than me, so along with age they also carried with them the maturity to be a positive influence on my mother.   I remember the very spot I was standing up near our barn shooting rock doves (pigeons) when I mumbled the powerful words.   “Damn, I wish I owned a gun as nice as this” referring to Cousin Jim’s brand new Remington 1100.   Those words set in motion a series of actions that eventually put a green Remington box under my Christmas tree back in the late ‘70s.

There’s just something more special about your first gun not being something that you purchase.   More than most things, a gun passed from generation to generation carries with it memories that few other objects ever possess.   An example is an old Winchester Model 97 I have safely locked in my gun cabinet.   That was my father’s only shotgun…perhaps, to my knowledge…it might have been the only gun he ever owned during his lifetime.   He bought the gun for $12 from his sister-in-law whose father owned it before that.   Whenever I pull that gun from the cabinet I don’t just see an antique chuck of wood and metal…but I experience a flow of memories knowing just a small bit of the history of this fine firearm.

And that is how it should be.   Of all the guns in my personal collection the ones with a bit of history behind them are the ones that bring me special satisfaction.   That’s not to say that the guns I purchased new have any less importance to me personally, but they somehow lack a certain flavor to the user.   Sort of like eating vanilla ice cream…in the end it is still satisfying, but knowing there could have been some chocolate or sprinkles on top could have made the offering even more enticing.

And so my nephew now has his first gun, a Remington 870 12 gauge with a synthetic stock.   In my mind a perfect “first gun” for a sportsman who is just starting out enjoying the outdoors.   The excitement on his face this evening made me reflect back to what my family must have seen oh so many Christmases ago when I opened that box I was hoping would be my first gun.

Over the years I have literally seen thousands of gifts opened by friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents and kids alike.   Certainly many of those gifts are deeply appreciated by the recipient giving the giver those warm feelings of having made the right buying decision.   Still, I contend that there is NO OTHER GIFT that brings with it the deep meaning and appreciation as shown by the gift of a gun.   Unless you’ve experienced it, either as a recipient or as a giver, you cannot understand truly how special this gift can be.

Here’s hoping that all the gifts you find under the tree this Christmas season are similarly special and meaningful to your life.   MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

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