Why I Blog About The Outdoor Sporting Life

This morning I started thinking about the reasons why I blog…and to be honest, I couldn’t come up with one single, logical answer.

In the beginning I did it largely because it was the “thing to do.”   Certainly during the past few years blogging has experienced such popularity and has been “in vogue” in our on-line society that today you can find bloggers recording their thoughts on just about any subject imaginable.   During the past election cycle, for instance, bloggers wielded so much political power and influence that even the major candidates for office could not overlook blogging as an important part of their campaign strategy.   Some might even say it was bloggers that changed the political winds and ultimately the outcome of the presidential election.

Yet, I’m not running for public office…so why do I sometimes spend more than an hour each day devoted to creating a web log?

In the beginning I did it because it was fun to put thoughts out there for the world to see.   This quickly evolved as my cousin, Gary, suffered through the late stages of Lou Gehrig’s Disease (or ALS).   For the final months of 2004, my blogging was a way for him to continue thinking about an outdoors life as he neared the twilight of his life.   Gary lost his ability to talk as well as most of his motor skills, but he could still move a computer mouse and was a daily visitor to my blog.   I even paid tribute to Gary before he succumbed to the disease in December of 2004.   My blogging was a way to say thanks to a man who made it possible for me to experience the outdoors as a youth and to eventually earn the title of being a sportsman.   I was “connecting” with a person who was once very important in my life…and blogging was the way it happened.

After Gary’s death I’ll be honest in saying that my purpose for blogging had to take a major refocus.   Oh sure, I knew that occasionally a few dozen people would drop in on my site daily to read my entries…but I suddenly had to find a new motivation for writing.   When Gary was alive…I always knew there was at least one person who would read my efforts.   During the past 13 months since his death, however, I have largely been writing to an anonymous audience who knows as little about me as I know about most of the readers.

Still, I realize that when people land on my blog site these days it is likely because of some Google search and the search words that were used somehow pointed to one of my daily entries.   Today, I connect with folks through my blog ONLY when they leave me comments…and fortunately more folks are doing that all the time.

Take for instance some comments that were made on my recent entry discussing Diamond Dog Food.   Check it out…someone who was actually personally affected with the death of his dog took the time to read my blog and to comment.   Even though I would have hoped to connect with this person under much happier circumstances, it was through this blog site that maybe he took a bit of comfort and some guidance on where to turn next with his legal situation.   I hope he stays in touch.

Not too long ago I wrote an entry sort of ribbing two Minnesota Conservation Officers (game wardens) for performing CPR on their dog.   Another CO took issue with those comments and decided to “straighten me out.”   That was great.   I still disagree with his statements…but I accept the fact that not everybody is going to see things the way I do.   I suspect I have many others who shake their heads in disagreement with what I say from time to time, but they are not moved enough to leave a comment.   I applaud everyone who takes the time and effort to jot a few words whether in agreement or in disagreement with what I say.

The summer of 2005 was not a good one for this blogger.   In fact, the better portion of last year was not good as I had many things going on in my life that left little time for blogging or for sportsman activities, for that matter.   I pledge that 2006 will be much different…and so far that is turning out to be true.

So, almost 16 months into this online journal experiment…why do I still find myself blogging today?   It’s quite simple.   When you look at the outdoors as a journalist or outdoors writer you force yourself to see things and to think about the world in ways you ordinarily wouldn’t consider.   Hey, let’s face it…there are some days it’s hard to know what to blog about in this space.

But when you keep your eyes and ears open looking for blog material…it makes you more of an aware sportsman.   It’s not that I profess to have any vast knowledge of the outdoors or writing abilities uniquely qualified describe it.   Nope, I’m just an average sportsman who cares about his heritage and wants to see hunting, fishing and other similar activities shown in a positive light.   We have lots to lose…and so much to gain by taking pride in being who we are in the outdoors world.

So that’s why I enjoy blogging.   In most cases it’s a labor of love to write about topics and describe the very activities that define most of our lives as sportsmen.   Besides, if I blogged about politics, pop culture or competitive sports…nobody important would really care to read it! 

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

Longliners I’ve Known

This evening I was paging through one of my outdoor magazines and I came across a term of which I wonder if most sportsmen are familiar these days.   The term is “longlining” and unless you are a trapper or have trapping-related interests…I’m guessing you probably have never heard of it.

In fact, if you were to Google the term you would be more apt to find it used in connection with commercial fishing operations and not trapping.   But that’s not what we’re talking about here.   I want to introduce you to a type of sportsman that I’m speculating is slowly becoming a dying breed within our sportsman community.

Essentially a longliner is a trapper who during the season spends the better portion of the day tending to and managing his trapline.   I’m not talking about a recreational trapper who spends a few hours before work…or a schoolboy who checks his traps after school.   Nope, I’m talking about the sportsman who likely has 100 or more traps set at any one time and likely drives 100s of miles each day to accomplish that task.

In many ways this sportsman keeps a low profile and does not like to advertise his presence as he moves through his territory.   The main reason is most trappers I know seem to be a solitary bunch…and with good reason.   If others see what they are doing…they stand a much better chance of losing a trap and wasting a set.   That’s why I would venture to guess most sportsmen would not even know if a good longliner happens to be working an area where they hunt or fish.

Now I started thinking about the longliner this evening not for who they are…but how they must be effected by our changing world.   When your sport requires you to drive 5,000 or more miles each season…certainly the increasing cost of gas is a big factor.   So, too, must be the loss of places to trap with fence-lines being removed and houses popping up seemingly all over.   Not to mention that when you must live with the volatile fur markets…it all boils down to a lot of hard work for very marginal profit.

Still, anybody who has ever trapped knows that most people in the sport do not do it primarily for the money.   Oh sure, it helps pays some bills and I’m sure for some it supplements the household income…but I will be the first to contend there are much easier ways to make money than trapping.   In fact, what drives most trappers is the one-to-one challenge of trying to outwit a fur-bearer…a feeling quite similar to trying to outsmart a wiley old buck or to waylay an old gobbler.

But the longliners I know have a passion for the sport that goes much deeper.   They spend most of the year fixing equipment and preparing for the fall season that may only last a few weeks, depending on what type of animals are being trapped.   Of course, some diehard longliners don’t just settle for a few weeks…they will move across the country maybe starting out by water trapping in a tri-state area in late November/early December…and then moving on halfway across the country to partake in dry land-trapping after predators through the holidays and into January.

The work is hard…the days are long…and the nights seem to grow shorter and shorter as the season progresses.   Most of these longliners use their vehicles as their mobile office where they both work and sleep.   Sound glamorous?   Well, if you haven’t figured it out by now…the life of being a sportsman is not always about comfort and convenience.

So the next time you are out pheasant hunting and you see a guy parked alongside the road wearing rubber boots…you might just be looking at a longliner who doesn’t have much time for chit chatting.   In fact, most of these folks are on such a tight schedule that you can almost set your clock by when they will check their sets each day.

Today I introduced you to the longliner because I’m convinced most hunters and fishermen are not aware of this person’s existence in the outdoors.   Just as you take your deer hunting or your fishing very seriously…there are folks who use that same energy level to trap mink or fox.   It’s time this passion gets recognized as a legitimate facet of the sportsman community.

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

Recovering Vehicles Lost Thru The Ice

One of the costs (and I suppose, risks) associated with being a sportsman in the northern states during the wintertime usually involves ice.   Now realize, I’m not necessarily talking ice in the sense that your truck slips off the road and gets stuck in the ditch.   Nope, I’m talking about those times when you are brave (or foolish) enough to take a newer truck out on the ice (to do a little fishing) and suddenly it breaks through and disappears.   Those are the times when your emotions are mixed with being so pissed that this has just happened to you…to embarrassed to the point you would rather be caught naked answering nature’s call by your mother-in-law than having the world talk about what just happened to you.

In Friday’s blog I mentioned an urban legend that involved a truck breaking through the ice on some Minnesota lake.   Today, however, I’m going to offer some photographic proof that it actually does happen.

The pictures and story that was presented to me came in another e-mail from a friend.   Again, I don’t have any proof that what is said is true…but when photographic evidence is presented it does add a little more credence to the story.   I’m showing it here mostly because deep down inside most of us sportsmen like to be gawkers…so long as the incident being observed didn’t actually happen to us.

I wish I could give the photographer and the person who narrates each of the pictures below credit…but unfortunately that information is buried deep in the e-mail forwarding history list so they will remain anonymous, at least for now.   Enjoy the pictures and the story:

January 7, 2006         Hunters Pt, Lake Mille Lacs, MN
            Thought you’d all enjoy these pictures, as they are a once-in-a-lifetime shots (hopefully) that I’ll ever get.  This Dodge truck went in on Thurs, 1-5-06 and was brought up on Sat, 1-7-06.

                  This is where the Dodge went thru.  Approx 1 – 2 blocks out off the shore from Hunters Pt, Mille Lacs Lake.  Went thru on Thursday, Jan 5, 2006.  Driver got out fine.  Took about 2 minutes for the vehicle to go down.

They got a cable on the truck Thursday when they first tried to get it out, so a diver did not have to go under to get it hooked up. The retrieval truck went under on Thurs. trying to get this one out, but they got that out right away. That one got wet to the seat. They spent all day Fri drying it out. It was used to get the Dodge out on Sat.

The truck was approx 30 ft or so forward of this retrieval rig. They had to cut a long slit in the ice to put the cable under to pull the truck to the rescue rig.


There was approx 12 – 14″ of ice here, but it’s been so warm that the ice had a lot of ‘air’ in it.  It is what the lake folks call ‘spring ice’ – not real safe to drive on.


I talked to the owner of the truck Sunday morning at Hunters Inn. He was fine and very grateful that he got out and everything turned out ok. Was real thankful that his wife was not with him as he said they may not have made it. He was alone at the time. (He did not watch the retrieval. He was in the bar at the time)


One of the main reasons the truck went in was because of a ‘heave’ or long crack that came down in the ice, weakening it is lot of spots.  ———-Note the 2 ‘telephone type logs’ under the frame helping guide it out.—-


The inside of the truck was full of water, making it very heavy. He pulled it up slowly so as to let some of the water drain out, getting rid of some of the weight. But the door finally had to be opened to get rid of most of it.


Jim, the owner of the rig, says that he has had the recovery rig all over the state(MN).  Wheels go under it for traveling.  I’m not sure how much it breaks down.


                      Note there are 2 trucks with cables attached to get the sunken truck out.  One is to keep it straight as the other pulls it up.  The brown truck on the far left is the one that went in on Thurs, trying to get the Dodge out.   When they cut the ‘hole’ in the ice, they use a chain saw and cut it is large chunks. Then they use a couple of ice spuds and push the chunks under the ice out of the way. Not a real easy process.


It’s amazing to watch the way they get a truck out of the ice in that small of a hole.  No scratches on the truck, either.

I’m sure most of the people who watched this truck first-hand yanked from the depths of Mille Lacs Lake in Central Minnesota were thankful it was not their truck nor their expense.   Hopefully, seeing these pictures will make all of us count our blessings this event didn’t happen to us.

I’m just thankful that back in 1979 on French Lake this very same event didn’t happen to my friend Mitch and me who were much younger and more foolish at the time.  We crossed a frozen lake and unknowingly drove over a spring where soft ice turned to open water flying in the air behind us.   On that occasion two young teenage sportsmen got very lucky the ice fishing gods cooperated by taking mercy on us…and 25 years later the lesson has still not not been forgotten.

Indeed, there are many lessons to be learned from our brethren sportsmen…and respecting ice (and its unpredictable characteristics) is something we all should learn to respect and to take caution on the side of safety.

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