In This Case It’s Not Just The Size That Matters

If you live in the Northern states near waters where the coveted fish known as the muskie lurks, by now you have undoubtedly heard about the heated controversy.   Oh, this is certainly not a new controversy…just an old one that keeps rearing it’s ugly head from time to time.   Since 1949 to be precise.

It all started back in the summer of 1949 when an angler named Louis Spray caught what many believe to be the world record muskie – a record that has stood for over half a century.   But not everyone believes those accounts…and perhaps with good reason if you dig a bit deeper into the story.   Problem is, how do you dispute a record claim when all you have to go on as evidence these days are a few sworn affidavits and photographs of the monumental catch?
That doesn’t mean this record-setting story is without its distracters.   In fact, several groups of knowledgeable researchers have recently tried to once and for all shoot some holes into this colorful story and have the long-standing record listing disqualified.   But in an 8-0 vote, the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame elected to keep the record as it now stands and to once again deny the contesting testimony of those who have their strong doubts of its legitimacy.

As for me, I really don’t know what to believe.   On one hand it is a classic fishing story with the lead character cast perfect for the part.   If Mr. Spray aspired to gain notoriety for his achievement…well, he certainly did that.   A full 56 years after his famed catch and even 20 years after his death…the legend lives on to be perfect fodder fitting for any lake country tavern debate.

But here is something that is much more clear.   I ask you this…why are the directors for the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame all comprised of residents who live in and around Hayward Wisconsin?   Here is a self-proclaimed organization that strives to be the clearinghouse for all of our North American angling records and yet the leaders totally lack geographic diversity.   Why?   Is it out of convenience to conduct organizational affairs…or does the organization have some ulterior motive that perhaps has a slight bias toward tourism in the heart of Wisconsin’s lake country?   As an angler who likely will never see his name listed on their record books…I still want to know.

Personally, I feel the famed tale of Louis Spray’s fish will continue to grow until someday when the record is broken and then few people will care about it at that point.   Truth is, sportsmen have an uncanny interest in and affinity toward whatever is number one in the record books.   Whether its the biggest buck ever shot or some other spectacular record breaking sportsman event…the clamor that persists over the sporting achievement has few equals.

Perhaps this is why the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame wants to find every reason to justify Spray’s fish.   Until the next better fish comes along the focus of attention and angling spotlight remains on the Chippewa Flowage near Hayward for being the site of this record-breaking catch.   It’s easy to establish that the community of Hayward has a vested economic interest in seeing the current record endure any challenge to the claim.   It’s also easy to substantiate a claim that most of the directors who voted to uphold the record potentially stand to gain by any tourism dollars that might filter into the community based on the area’s decades old big fish reputation.

Now understand that I am not stating that any improprieties HAVE occurred in the past with the Hall or its directors…but, it should be a paramount priority for this group to be organized in such a manner not to even give that perception.   C’mon, we’re not talking about a good ol’ boys club here…we’re talking about a non-profit organization entrusted by all of us to be the guardians of our fishing heritage.   Indeed, it’s time for the Hall to clean up its act and diversify the leaders who govern.   If the records it holds are marred with controversy and persistent doubt, then it might as well fold because its losing credibility and respect among the people it needs the most – the angling public.

In the minds of many anglers, Louis Spray has an asterisk by his name because his record-setting entry is suspicious, to say the least.   In my mind, the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame will also have an asterisk next to its name until it proves to the angling world that their recognition program is above reproach.

In my opinion it wasn’t Louis Spray and his angling claim that was on trial most recently…rather, it was the highly questionable manner in which his record seemingly endures the test of time in the Hayward, Wisconsin community.

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

Please…No Diamond In The Ruff (pooch)

It’s one of the most important decisions a sportsman/pet owner can make.   I’m talking about the food stuffs you put into your pet.   In fact, aside from choosing the right breed for your hunting needs and the best trainer…perhaps no other decision is nearly as important to a canine companion as to deliver the proper nutritional health to your four-legged friend.

In recent weeks, however, this particular topic has really hit home with me.   Maybe you heard about the Diamond Pet Foods recall of tainted dog food.   Certainly this has the makings of some bad news for dog owners…and if you haven’t heard about it then listen up.

I’m not going to go into all the details here…but suffice it to say that a controversy seems to be brewing as to when the pet food company knew there was a problem and IF it continued to sell the dog food after this awareness.   But that’s a topic for another day and likely complex enough it will need to be settled in the courts.   For more information on a brewing lawsuit, link here.

I’m saddened because up until this incident I have always had high regard for Diamond dog food.   In fact, it is the only food my soon to be 7 year old dog has ever eaten.

It all began back about 7 years ago when I was searching for a new puppy.   I read everything I could and searched out all the information I could absorb to do everything right with this dog.   Part of that research brought me to a friend, Karla.

You see, Karla was the manager of several large independently-owned pet stores and knew more about dog food than I could ever possible learn in this lifetime.   She explained to me the importance of choosing the right food, especially since I had planned on bringing home a new black lab puppy to the household.

I had never heard of such a thing, but Karla cautioned me on the importance that the diet of large-breed puppies (such as the lab) need a vastly different ratio than many smaller-framed dogs.   The appropriate protein, fat, and calcium levels for large breed puppies must be delivered at specific ratios to ensure bones develop strongly and properly.   It made sense at the time…so I followed her recommendations.
Karla laid out a feeding plan for me that started my new seven week old puppy on adult dog food from the get-go.   Her choice…none other than Diamond Premium Adult.   She explained that Diamond was a quality food for the money and most importantly, as a pet store manager who could feed her own dogs whatever she wanted; she had no qualms about recommending Diamond over most other brands.   As I recall, the only two other brands at the time that even compared to Diamond was IAMS and Science Diet, both good premium dog foods in their own right.

Now it’s important to understand that Karla was not giving me this advice as a sales person looking to make a sale.   Nope, when I discussed this with her she had just quit her job as pet store manager and was going back into her nursing career.   She had no vested interest in what or where I purchased my pet foods.

Over the years I have turned lots of folks on to the Diamond brand of dog food.   In most cases it was usually $10 to $15(or more) cheaper than the previously mentioned brands.   Karla explained that Diamond gets by with this because they do not spend the millions on advertising such as the other big two.   Still, the quality of the food is certainly comparable…at least until this recent incident.

Even though my state (Minnesota) does not fall within the recall list of states served by the Gaston, SC Diamond facility…I’m feeling a bit perplexed these days and my anger is slowly building.   When I shell out $25 for a premium bag of dog food I expect the product to be wholesome and nutritious.   I certainly don’t anticipate my dog growing sick from the food and warranting a trip to the vet.   More importantly, reports are that perhaps dozens of dogs have died to date possibly as a result of eating this tainted dog food.   How sad.

Diamond Pet Foods, even though the food I am serving my pooch (and have served her for nearly seven years) was not on your recall list…my confidence in your ability to provide a quality product has now been shaken.   Believe me, when I must stop at the pet food store within the next two weeks to purchase another bag of food…for the first time in years I will likely not be looking exclusively for the Diamond brand.   What a shame.

As a sportsman who loves his canine partner and strives to give her the best…I’ll be watching closely how you handle this current crisis.   More importantly, if someday its proven that some bad judgments were made by your company you need to make it right with the dog owners who were directly affected.   I’m not sure what actions you will need to take to accomplish that difficult task…but you better get creative and do it sooner rather than later.

And let this be a lesson, not only to the Diamonds of this world…but to all manufacturers of pet-related products.   When sportsmen and dog owners perceive they have been taken advantage of in some manner…we’ve learned to speak loudly and effectively by keeping our pocketbooks closed when contemplating future purchases.   Somehow I already sense that Diamond corporate is well aware of this growing PR nightmare.

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

Minnesota’s Wimpy, Wimpy Winter

It was bound to happen.   A wimpy Minnesota winter, that is.   If the first two weeks of 2006 is any indication as to how the duration of the winter will likely be…well, we might as well start thinking about getting our boats out of storage and dreaming of calling up some ol’ gobbler this spring.   Those times can’t be far off…can they?

Truth is this mild weather should not be any surprise…at least not to me.   December looked promising.   Moments of bitter cold temps and several snowstorms that dumped a fair amount of fluff on the countryside.   Oh, of course, it was too late to help my deer hunting in ’05…but it had the makings of turning into a long, cold, snowy winter early on.

Then I made the fatal mistake.   It was a mistake I made about 25 years earlier, too.   What I did was purchase a pair of snowshoes for my wife as a Christmas present.   That was this year’s mistake.   Years ago I purchased snowshoes for myself and discovered for the next three winters there wasn’t enough snow to use them in each of the successive winter seasons.

I’ve been urging my wife with the notion…maybe we should take the snowshoes back to the store while we can still get credit on them this year.   So far she’s been balking at the thought, because she has a certain fondness for the gift.   Sure, I don’t blame her…the thought of traipsing through a snowy woods like some Adirondack pioneer has a certain appeal…but the practicality is the roughly $125 I spent on the shoes could easily be converted to a new gift with more functional use.

So, blame it on me.   Yes, I purchased another pair of snowshoes this year and THAT is the reason for our crappy winter.   If history holds…the next two upcoming winters are likely to be lousy, too.

Certainly the winter we’ve experienced in the upper Midwest has some pluses and minuses.   On the plus side is the ease in which wildlife has had to use its reserves to survive.   Deep snows usually represent trouble for vulnerable wildlife, such as pheasants, deer, etc.   But this year most of these critters have gotten by easy (fingers crossed that it continues).

But on the negative side are the poor conditions for ice fishing.   Early cold temperatures did not linger long enough to make good ice before the heavy snows came in early December.   The heavy snow putting pressure on new ice does not equate for good ice.   And now with the unseasonably warm temps that have lingered for about three weeks has turned that poor ice into dangerous ice.   Just ask one of the many fools who have lost their vehicles through the ice on some Minnesota lake this year.   It happens and it can be deadly.

In Minnesota, as well as many of the other northern tier states, our winter outdoor pastimes revolve around cold temperatures and weather that cooperates by being normal.   That has not exactly happened this year.

Take the St. Paul (Minnesota) winter carnival, for instance.   This annual celebration depends on winter cooperating.   This year the crappy weather is even threatening to cancel many of the events, such as outdoor hockey events, car races on ice, etc.

As outdoor enthusiasts, we sometimes forget how much we depend on the weather to cooperate in order for us to have our fun.   Take snowshoeing, for instance…if the depth of the snow isn’t at least 8 to 12 inches why even bother strapping them on?

As for my wife, oh, she’ll likely keep the snowshoes I gave her for the holidays…’cause she’s just that type of appreciative woman.   Perhaps she’ll take some solace in the fact she’s not alone.   My guess is, this year there were lots of winter-dependent gifts left under the Christmas tree by Santa…many of which just might have to wait another year before they get much use.

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