Are Ducks Doomed In Minnesota?

Let’s face it…if you’ve been a waterfowler in Minnesota and not willing to do some traveling to partake in your hunting exploits…you’ve likely fallen on hard times in recent years.   Seriously, I’ve heard of and seen more ads for people selling off their duck boats and related equipment during the last few years than perhaps ever before.   Instead of seeing hope on the horizon, some sportsmen are disgustingly selling off their waterfowling assets to…who knows…invest in a new bass boat, for instance.

I think most all Minnesota waterfowlers will agree with the statement that duck hunting sure isn’t what it used to be.   That’s not to say that every morning during the fall hunting season is a bust…but seeing the endless flocks of northern ducks wingin’ southward just isn’t a common sight anymore.

So what’s happening?   I suppose it would be fair to say there’s a combination of factors that need to be considered.   Loss of wetlands — both for nesting and staging areas, declining populations with certain species, even shifting migration patterns have been attributed to the overall decline in the quality of the hunt.   No doubt about it…addressing the problem will require a complex set of solutions requiring the expertise and cooperation of many different conservation organizations and agencies.

Last spring efforts to jump-start the action took place on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol where 100’s of sportsmen and dozens of conservation organizations pledged their combined support to begin making some changes.   This year, on February 4th in fact, will be the First Annual Wetlands Summit spearheaded by the Minnesota Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, but co-sponsored by the Minnesota DNR plus numerous other conservation groups.

Summits are good…they help with the exchange of ideas and facilitating the cooperation of different agencies.   But whether they call it a roundtable, a summit or however else you care to term it…the goals of the meeting are only successful when talk eventually turns into action.   That’s why I’m skeptical about such meetings.   In most cases, at the end of the day participants will often walk out with that feel-good sense that life will soon be better.   Yet, like a bunch of politicians who’ll listen to your comments and then tell you what you want to hear…that doesn’t always mean life will improve just because of the interaction.

Don’t get me wrong…I do think gathering to discuss any problem in the outdoors is a good thing.   My frustration, however, stems from when no positive developments will eventually materialize after the discussions have ended.   I suspect this is not only a problem isolated in Minnesota…but it occurs in every other state irregardless of what the particular outdoor issue might be.

I certainly have my hopes that the summit planned for next Saturday proves to be a success.   I hope the biologists, the conservation policy makers and the inevitable legislators who will make their appearance will all eventually pledge solidarity to make a noticeable difference in our waterfowling future.   Policies and ideas aside…the next level occurs when implementation replaces discussion.   Yet, the telltale sign of a successful summit will someday be judged by the return of our quality waterfowling hunting heritage.

Ducks aren’t necessarily doomed in Minnesota per se, but when the legions of people who care most about them start seeing attrition within their hunting ranks…it’s bound to effect the ducks, too.   When once dedicated hunters start liquidating their waterfowl hunting equipment and giving up on the sport…it has a far-reaching impact that could mean the loss of future generations of waterfowl hunters.   After all, when a father willingly sells off his waterfowl equipment the chances of his children developing those future interests are similarly reduced.   Perhaps the emphasis of the summit next weekend might want to focus on saving the waterfowl hunter (and his/her interest in the sport) and not just on saving the wetlands or the ducks those wetlands might produce.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Miracle On Ice

I was kind of in a quandary with today’s blog post.   Should I title it Miracle On Ice, as I did…or should it have been more aptly titled Fool With Total Disregard For Life & Property.   I guess the second title was much more descriptive and fitting…but the first one had a better ring to it.   Both, in fact, apply to today’s blog entry.

Sportsmen do a lot of dumb things…and I’ll be the first to admit that.   Over the years I have done some things myself that have been foolish, especially when viewed in hindsight.   But today’s blog post goes beyond mere common sense.   Makes me wonder why there has never been a Darwin Awards category reserved just for sportsman (see previous post).

Today I received an e-mail from a sheriff’s deputy friend of mine with the following message:

You wake up today and the weather is great.  It’s been warm for a month, was over 45 yesterday and stayed warm and windy all night.  You have an ice house on Roberd’s Lake (in southern Minnesota).  You go there and see several houses have sunk overnight (see picture below):

Question:  Would you drive your van out to get yours?


Notice in the top picture that several of the houses have sunk through the ice almost completely out of sight.   I zoomed in on the picture of the guy in the van and you can see where his back tires on the van and especially the tires on the ice house are sinking 3 to 4 inches deep in the icy slush.   I then also zoomed in on the man in the van and he appears to be glancing directly at the deputy parked taking his pictures on the shore.

Yes, the man made it off the ice without incident.   Yes, because he seemingly lacked any common sense for what was going on around him the deputy had to verbally chastise him for taking chances like he was doing.

Still, I ask myself this.   When it has been so unseasonably warm in the upper Midwest as it has been this year…why do sportsmen fail to realize this is no ordinary year and conduct themselves differently?   Sure, this fool was nothing short of idiotic for driving out on the ice with a heavy vehicle…but where was this guy’s foresight in predicting a week or two ago (when it was a little bit safer) that maybe the ice house needed to come off the ice.   Heck, it’s on wheels…he could have driven it to the lake on a day to day basis rather than leave it there until it was almost too late to remove.   Needless to say, this dude pushed the envelope on this almost to the point where this stunt could not have been performed successfully.   Why take those chances?

My frustration is not only with this idiot, however.   What about all the ice houses on area lakes that are slowly falling through the ice because the owners were in some form of denial that maybe the ice fishing season (using a house, anyway) is coming to a close a month earlier this winter season.

In Minnesota all ice houses are required to be licensed with identification placed on the exterior of who it belongs to.   I know for a fact that this time of the year many conservation officers go around to area lakes and map out which house belongs to whom…and eventually the owner will be responsible for the cleanup.   Aside from a littering ticket…the ice house owner has to pay for the expensive recovery and debris removal.   And in most situations the structures must be dismantled by the divers…so it’s not like the house comes out again in one piece.

One of my pet peeves about ice fishermen are details like I have posted today.   When the non-fishing public sees such displays of stupidity or laziness it gives all the rest of us sportsman a bad name.   Let’s face it, people don’t talk about grandpa taking the grandson ice fishing and what quality bonding time they have together catching crappies.   Nope, if you’re a non-fisherman when you think of ice fishing…you see images like this indelibly etched in your mind and it only reinforces why you are not stupid enough to participate in the dangerous sport.

I hate to sound preachy…but it’s time the sportsman community takes action and looks closer at what image we are giving off to the non-sporting public.   Sure, there will always be a few “bad apples” among us who show up in scenes like those shown in the picture…but with some firm peer pressure these folks can begin to clean up their act and hopefully conduct themselves more properly.   Not to mention more safely.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Required Reading For Anyone Who Ocassionally Has An Appetite

Recently I was checking out a web site that serves as the Academy Awards, so to speak, for blog sites pertaining to culinary dining and the food preparation world.   At first, my interest in the site was mostly out of curiosity in seeing how all these nicely constructed blog sites vied for the “best of” award in several different food blog categories.

In particular, one category immediately intrigued me.   It was the award for the “Best Blog Post” category.   I quickly grew curious…and I wondered what type of writing or what topic would lead to achieving an award such as this.   Let’s face it…with hundreds of different food blogs and another hundred or more posts within each blog…it had to be a really intriguing entry that would capture the judge’s attention for the best…and in fact it was.

What I discovered was a blog entry by Barbara Fisher who summed up my sentiments on eating meat better than I ever could have put into words.   Indeed, this entry achieved the Best Blog Post award because it defined those of us who eat meat as normal beings…and not the blood-thirsty carnivores that the vegan world would make us out to be.

Read the entire post, but consider these excerpts from Ms. Fisher’s award-winning writing:

“…if you cannot deal with the fact that an animal has to die so you can eat its flesh, then, you shouldn’t be eating that animal in the first place. It isn’t necessary for most humans to eat meat anymore–human knowledge of nutrition and the global marketplace have made vegetarian diets more pleasant, palatable and nutritionally sound than ever before.

So, if you don’t -need- to eat meat for its nutritive value, and it squicks you out to think of eating an animal, then why not just stop eating meat, and while you are at it, stop whining about it…”

“…Why do people insist on eating meat, but complain if it looks like it came from the carcass of an animal–which, even if it is minced and turned into sausage or trimmed into boneless cutlets, or cooked, shredded, ground and pressed into the shape of cartoon characters, is whence all meat comes? Why is it so hard to wrap one’s head around the fact that meat is the product of slaughtering an animal for the purpose of human consumption…?”

“…People have forgotten, that in order for us to eat a hamburger, a cow dies. Most Americans live sheltered lives where the fact that in order for us to celebrate Independance Day with fried chicken and barbequed ribs, chickens and hogs must die…”

I found this post quite remarkable because even though Ms. Fisher doesn’t mention hunters per se, she most certainly understands the food delivery system and how generations of families are being removed from understanding the source where meat is derived.   Nobody knows this better than the sportsman who basically handles his kill from field to table.   Yet, we now exist in a world where some people think it is cruel to kill a cow and to take pleasure in grilling a nice steak.   Heaven forbid we spend an entire weekend chasing a deer around the woods so we can rejoice in the kill and the eventual sacrifice the animal makes for our dietary desires.   Unfortunately, some people just don’t get it.

I loved the title for Ms. Fisher’s post, “Meat Comes from Animals: Deal with It, or Eat Vegetables.”   That pretty much sums it up right there for me.

As sportsmen and as grocery-buying, meat-eating consumers…we most certainly do not need to feel guilty about eating the flesh of some animal.   Yet, we live in a world where many folks with this “holier than thou” attitude would like us to believe that craving venison or even farm-raised beef is some kind of terrible sin.   Truth is, we all make choices in this world and this includes what we consume in our diets.

So tell me, if I respect and honor a person’s choice to not eat meat and allow them to take pride in being a vegan…why then should this person not reciprocate with the same respect shown back to me?   After all, I don’t go around telling people how they should eat…why then should I listen to a person who thinks their meat-free culinary belief is better than mine?

It’s time this world wakes up and realizes that ever since the beginning of time there have been herbivores and carnivores roaming the planet and some facts just are not meant to change no matter how you might reason a rebuttal.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.