Time Well Spent Inventorying Guns & Gear

Let’s face it…nobody likes to think about the possibility of your guns or outdoor equipment getting stolen, but few among us are so naive to think it could not happen.   So what steps have you taken recently to make some safeguards to protect your financial investment?   So, you say, you’ve got a list…but when was the last time you reviewed or updated that record?

I know…it’s not one of those activities that most of us enjoy.   Yet, to be prudent gun owners we need to occasionally take some time to ensure we have all the details correct about our collection in case of disaster.   I’ve also found that the late winter doldrums is a perfect time to sit by the computer and accomplish some of these necessary tasks.

For me it starts by pulling each gun out of the gun safe and giving it a quick once over looking for any evidence indicating the first signs of rust, etc.   Then I take a digital photograph trying to get an up-close view to show the gun’s condition.   This year I even took the extra step of using an image editing program to permanently label the photograph with the gun’s model number and serial number as shown below:


Next, I used a spreadsheet program in Excel to document all the details of the gun and to serve as a permanent (and editable) record of my ownership information.


To down-load a template of the particular Excel file I use for my record-keeping click HERE.   There’s nothing fancy about this file…but it aids in performing some of the totals calculations to keep a running value of your collection.   I also set this program up to include a worksheet tab for non-gun items you may want to include…such as binoculars, range finders, GPS, wildlife art, etc.

Now to be honest, if you’re one of the lucky few who has a rather extensive collection of prize firearms it might be wise to check out this program.   Blue Book Publications, Inc. puts out a wonderful Inventory Software Program that accomplishes the same thing as my file above, with the addition of having the gun valuation software built right in to its function.   That’s right…this program will walk you through and help you determine the value of each gun as well as capturing all the pertinent ownership details.

BBP not only sells this great computer program, but this company also sells the “bible” which is used industry-wide to determine all gun values.   This company’s products are definitely worth a look and best of all, if you order now you will get their most recent book and software program issues that are scheduled to be released in April.

Oh…and one last word of advice.   You may want to password protect any of these files for added security from your spouse.   Even as helpful as these programs would be in establishing value in case of theft…the important numbers they reveal could definitely work against you if they fell into the wrong hands within your household.   Don’t take that chance!   Who needs a spouse backed with this critical information lobbying against your next gun purchase?   I know I sure don’t.

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

Trapped By My Own Stupidity

I have a confession to make…something I’ve admitted to few people in my life up until now.   In fact, the little story I’m about to relate remains one of the most embarrassing moments in my sportsman’s career.   So why am I about to share this with you now?   Two reasons…first, as I reflect back now nearly 30 years later I have to admit it is rather funny.   Not to mention I also just finished reading about another outdoors writer who had the very same thing occur to him…almost down to the detail.   Somehow, I’m now taking some solace in the fact I have not experienced this life event completely alone.

What happened?   Well, during my second year of trapping (when I was about 14 or 15 years old) I actually trapped myself.   Due to my negligence and youthful inexperience of placing the trap…it released and my right arm happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.   The jaws clamped around my wrist so tight I’m not sure if it was the surprise of the trap unexpectantly being triggered or the pressure it immediately placed on my wrist that got me most excited.

It happened like this.   I had just purchased a new Victor Conibear #220 trap for use during the water trapping season mostly for use on raccoons.   The conibear trap is intended to be a “killer style” trapping device because the springs release with such power and velocity that it will either snap the neck on the captured prey or it will eventually choke off the air supply.   It’s an effective trap when used properly, but it’s also a trap that’s not forgiving because of the nature in how it works.


As I recall the details…I had just gotten home from school and I rushed out into the woods to tend my trap-line.   On this particularly November evening, I decided to place my new trap in a promising spot.   For those who are not familiar with the operations of the trap, you will see there are two springs on either side of the device.   These springs have to be compressed together on both sides of the trap which is no easy task…at least not without the use of the proper setting tool.   The particular tool I used required BOTH hands to compress one spring at the time on either side…then you moved on to the other.   Eventually with both springs compressed…you can set the triggering mechanism to fire when an animal attempts to move through the square opening.

I had just finished driving a long stake into the hard ground to secure the trap when I foolishly decided that the triggering mechanism had some debris on it that had to be removed.   Instead of placing the safety catches on both of the springs…in my youthful exuberance I chose to carefully tempt fate.   SNAP!!!!    Before I could even react to the surprise of the device clamped on my wrist a flood of thoughts passed through my mind.   First and foremost was the thought of how I would explain breaking my wrist to my mother if indeed I had injured myself.   Secondly, my trapping buddy was due to come walking by on the river at any time and I most certainly didn’t want to have him see me in this predicament.

The problem is how do you release a trap from your arm when it ordinarily takes two hands to operate the springs in the first place?   Furthermore, when your hand is growing more numb with each passing moment and you are unsure if you have broken any bones…the situation seems to be quite desperate.

Well, after several agonizing minutes which seemed almost like an eternity…I finally used my free hand and a knee to carefully compress each of the springs.   Once free, I immediately laid on a log and dowsed my sore wrist into the cool running river water to help relieve the swelling.   Fortunately, the trap released shut on the narrow side of my wrist…because had it closed on my wrist turned at a 90 degree angle it most certainly would have done some damage to my arm.

As I recall it that particular trap did not see a whole lot of use for the remainder of that particular trapping season.   Oh sure, I did use it again in seasons to come…but I had a whole new respect for the conibear “body-gripping” style of trap.

Over the years I did share my mis-adventure of being trapped by my own trap with a few select friends…and of course they laughed quite heartily.   But to this very day I have not had the courage to tell my mother what happened for fear she might still somehow attempt to take my traps away from me.   You see…every night when I left the house heading for the trap-line she admonished me…“Don’t get hurt or I will take those traps away from you!”   To a young trapper…the only thing worse than being embarrassed by getting caught in your own trapset would be to lose the privileges to participate thanks to a parent who was concerned you might get hurt out just having some fun in the woods.

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

Winter Finally Arrives To My Backyard

SnowyRiverYou’ve probably noticed…I haven’t spent much time blogging over the past few days.   On Sunday night and early Monday morning we were hit with the first big snowstorm of the winter here in southern Minnesota.   Oh sure, there have been plenty of teaser snowstorms over the past few months…but nothing with the powerful punch to keep kids home from school and folks away from work…at least not until Monday.   Prior to the storm the ground was practically devoid of snow, as it has been much of the winter…and then literally overnight a 12” blanket of white completely covered the landscape.

I’ve been using the past few days to fully appreciate the beauty of the woods on my farm and to observe some of the travels of wildlife that call it home.   Turkey tracks are abundant.   That’s encouraging…because my spring turkey hunting period is now less than six weeks away.   Hard to believe that in such a short time the woods that now appears solidly in the grasp of winter will transform into a completely different set of sights and sounds.   Soon springtime wildflowers will cover the woodland floor and the sounds of wild turkeys yelping and gobbling in the distance will be commonplace throughout the valley.

Actually, speaking of snow and turkey hunting reminds me of one of my all-time favorite outdoor cartoons.   I wish I still had the cartoon drawing…but it was the words accompanying the cartoon graphic that were so funny.   It seems there was a local newspaper cartoonist who had a neighbor as a sportsman…and he used that neighbor’s outdoor-related behaviors as inspiration in developing his cartoon series.   Anyhow, the cartoon shows a picture of a sportsman dressed in camo sitting next to a tree stump after a recent snow.   The tag-line for the cartoon goes something like “******* spent hundreds of dollars on new camouflage clothing in preparation for the spring turkey hunt…and then it snowed!”   The cartoon character that ordinarily would have nicely blended into the woodland landscape now sticks out like a sore thumb sitting on a blanket of pure white.   And so it goes for sportsmen who must often deal with the unpredictable nature of seasonal weather activity.

One of the main reasons I like to walk in the winter woods is because everything is more visible.   A fresh snow will bring the woods to life in a way that dull grays and browns just can’t do justice.   A fresh snowfall is like looking at the woods in “high definition” when a dormant, dull, snowless woods is just unappealing to the eye.   With snow…the slightest movement of wildlife can easily be detected with careful observation practices.   But more importantly…a fresh coating of snow is like erasing a messy chalk board and starting anew.   From that point forward every movement in the snow is clearly visible to document the woodland activity.

Another reason I like a springtime snowstorm is the knowledge that winter will soon be waning.   The heavy wet snows help to re-charge the soil with necessary moisture and provide ample water runoff to keep small streams and tributaries flowing nicely during the springtime.   These snows also have been called the “poor farmer’s manure” as falling snows will aid certain plant life (particularly legumes) by providing atmospheric nitrogen available to the soil.

Indeed, a spring snow has much to offer nature and the people who enjoy viewing it.   In Minnesota, the month of March has long been observed as the month for state high school winter sports tournaments…and if you ask most natives to this region…you will also quickly learn that associated with those tournaments is a long history of blizzard activity.   So, I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise…now that winter has finally arrived…that in the forecast for tomorrow is the possibility for another 8 to 10 inches of snow.   Finally, the snowshoes can come out of storage if but only for a few more days this year.

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