Don’t Forget To Make Your Vote Count

Thanks goes out to Tom, one of my loyal blog readers, for reminding me to talk about the importance of voting this fall before heading off on some far-away hunt.   It’s hard to believe it but election day is only five weeks away.   While this won’t apply to everyone…some sportsmen will be hundreds of miles away from their precinct on election day which makes voting in person rather difficult.   Now is the time to apply for your absentee ballot to ensure there is ample time for processing your vote before you leave on the big hunting trip this fall.

VotebuttonElection laws vary so much from state to state it is really difficult to speak on exactly what needs to be done to request a ballot by mail.   In most cases the process is rather simple…and if you haven’t done it before it’s usually not as involved as you might think.   Start by contacting your local county auditor’s office.   This is the person in charge of the local elections and is usually the person who needs to get the absentee ballot out to you in time for voting.

For a quick rundown of election activities, including how to request an absentee ballot for your state, contact the NRA’s voter information section and click on your state:


This will give you a state by state rundown on how you can register to vote (if you need to do that) as well as describing the process for requesting an absentee ballot.

In Minnesota, our firearms deer season and the election occur with a terrible timing conflict.   Our deer season opens on Saturday, November 4th with the election only three days later.   Of course, there will be lots of hunters in Northern Minnesota for the opening week of camp so it is crucial that for their vote to count to make preparations several weeks in advance of this year’s hunt.

I shouldn’t have to explain the importance of voting.   As a group, if we all don’t voice our opinion at the polling booth then we loose critical influence with our elected officials.   In Minnesota, as I’m sure it occurs in many other areas, as well, the sportsman’s voice can make or break elections for some candidates.   This can only occur, however, if we take the time to perform our civic responsibility…by casting our vote (either on election day or in advance).

I may have mentioned this on the blog before but I can’t help but think of a situation that happened in my life about 20 years or so ago.   In my rural area we have townships and this local governing body is made up of township supervisors.   One year I decided to run for the job (a foolish decision, as I reflect back in hindsight) of supervisor and it was election day.   I was up against an incumbent who had been on the board for many years and was popular.   To make a long story short, I ended up losing the election by just one vote.   I came so close to winning…but as you know in politics close isn’t quite good enough.

The next night I attended a meeting only to hear my next door neighbor comment to me “gosh, I’m sorry my wife and I didn’t get to the poll in time.”   He went on to say “I hope it wasn’t a close election.”   Of course, I informed him that I had lost by just one vote…and had he and his wife made it more of a priority to vote on that day I would have won by a single vote rather than losing in the manner in which I did.

Of course, I had no hard feelings about the occurrence…and I know he felt quite bad.   The point I’m trying to make is we never know if the election is going to be close.   And because of that we never know for sure if our vote might be the deciding factor in seeing a favored candidate win.   Sportsmen have a powerful voice and most elected officials realize this…but it becomes a moot point when we don’t exercise our right to vote.

Make a point of it now to check your calendar.   If you’ll be in your home area on election day and can make it to the polls…great!   If not, take matters into your own hands and get the absentee ballot process moving along for yourself.   Standing up and making sure your vote counts is the only sure way we can send a message to the politicians that our outdoor priorities are important.   And even if your desired candidate doesn’t ultimately win…by being a participant in the process it should make you feel good about your actions.

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

The Importance of a Thermos Full of Coffee

If you don’t like coffee then don’t even waste your time reading today’s blog post.   Fact is, nothing I can say during the next 500 or so words will succeed in convincing you to give the hot brew a try.   It seems a person either likes hot java, or they can do just fine without it.   Indeed, drinking coffee can certainly be an acquired taste…but be careful, it’s also one of those liquids that can become very addictive, especially in the mornings to get a person going.

I’m one of those people who typically likes to drink my coffee in the morning only.   Do I need it every day…absolutely not!   In fact, I will go for weeks without drinking it, especially during the hot summertime months.   But come fall…there must be something inside me that flicks on an intuitive switch.   I dunno…sitting in the tree stand, taking a break back at the truck after rousting some early morning pheasants, or even sitting on a frozen lake doing some ice fishing.   It’s just sort of nice to reach into a pack and pull out a thermos containing hot coffee.

Indeed, drinking coffee in the outdoors seems to go hand in hand together.   I can remember back in my early youth while fishing with my uncle.   It must have been around 9:30 or so every morning he would pop open his dome topped lunch box and slip out a thermos full of coffee.   Didn’t matter what time of the year it was or how hot the weather might have been.   Lunch time meant drinking some morning brew that my aunt had likely made several hours earlier.   At the time I was way too young to appreciate the beverage…but I sure did like the smell of the coffee as it wafted through the air toward my envious perch in the front of the boat.

HuntersBrewIt must have been sometime in college when I first acquired the taste for coffee.   I suppose those late night study sessions cramming for the mid-quarters will do it to a person.   All I can remember is just how important it was to be carrying a thermos full of coffee into the woods and no longer filling it with hot chocolate.   Now mind you there’s nothing wrong with hot cocoa…but somehow I just don’t quite perceive it as being a “sportsman’s drink.”   At least not like hot coffee.

Maybe the transition from hot chocolate to coffee represents a certain maturation in a sportsman’s life.   Maybe carrying coffee and drinking it in the woods, in the boat or back at camp somehow connects a person with how their elders enjoyed a restful moment enjoying the spirit of the outdoors.   Indeed, nothing is finer in life than pouring a cup of coffee…taking the first sip…and then admiring, for a few moments, the deer you just waylaid before you begin field dressing it.

I can remember a certain Montana antelope hunt I was on where I did that very thing.   I had conducted a sneak on a ‘lopester for a couple of hours and then finally picked out the trophy I was going to shoot.   The conclusion of that experience was certainly punctuated by taking a few admiring moments to just sit next to my trophy and sip on a cup of coffee.   Of course, I did this despite the fact a nasty weather system was building and moments later a storm hit with me stranded with my animal about 4 miles away from my ATV.   I quickly eviscerated the antelope…marked its location to pick up another day…and got the heck out of there.   Yet, to this day, the memory of that particular hunt included relaxing with a cup of coffee while admiring the so-called fruits of my hunting labor.

To some extent when you’re sitting up in a bitterly cold deer stand the promise of coffee will also help lift the spirits.   Have you ever struggled with your body wanting to leave the stand but your mind says you should stay put?   Happens to me all the time.   When the weather is really miserable my mind will sometimes make promises to my feet that let’s stick this out just another 20 minutes to see if anything is going to happen.  

Coffee can be one of those great psychological motivators by adding a little warmth back into the body’s core.   Oh, sure, I realize the insignificance of drinking hot coffee to keep a person feeling warm…but on some cold days there’s just something encouraging about sipping hot coffee when nothing else in the world seems to remember what heat feels like because of the raw chill.

Honestly, I feel a bit sorry for the sportsman who doesn’t appreciate a fine coffee bean beverage.   I’d like to think that when I sit on a stump and admire the great outdoors sipping a freshly poured cup of coffee the experience somehow ties me to other generations before me who probably did that very same thing.   Coffee is a drink of the ages…and it will surely always deserve a spot in the sportsman’s pack.   Besides, when you pull out of your hunting coat a freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookie it just doesn’t taste quite the same when you wash it down with a can of Coke.   You need to have coffee.

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

Bore Sighting Gets You On Target Faster

It must be about 15 years or so ago since I purchased my first bore sighter.   It was one of those Bushnell units with the expandable arbors that would fit virtually any type or size of rifle/shotgun bore.   At the time it was a decent piece of equipment…I used it often when mounting new scopes onto new rifles.   It also came in quite handy during the hunt when there was no time for sighting-in and you wanted to check if your scope was still true after some rugged field use.

Truth is, I haven’t seen the whereabouts for that particular device for years…and quite frankly, after today I no longer mourn the loss.   Even though the Bushnell unit is still sold, and I’m sure has many ardent users who will swear by its functionality…today’s laser technology, in my opinion, makes the old-fashioned bore sighters virtually obsolete.

Actually, I am rather new to the electronic age of bore sighting.   I know the fancy little devices have been around for years, but up until a week or so ago I didn’t really feel it was necessary to add one to my array of equipment.   That changed when I stopped by my local Cabela’s and saw a model on sale for about $50.   At that price I figured it was time to check it out…and maybe it would end up being a real find.Lasersighter

Indeed it was…I must say as soon as I removed it from the package and pointed the laser at a building about 200 yards away I was impressed with the strength of light.   Now grant you laser sighters don’t work especially well during the bright daytime hours…but if you wait until dusk these little beauties really perform quite nicely.

This particular model comes with several different adapters that allow you to sight-in any bore from a .22 up to a .50 caliber rifle.   Just pick the correct adapter so the unit fits snugly into the bore…and continue to push it into your unloaded gun’s muzzle so everything is totally secure.   Now turn on the sight and pick a safe target (darker targets seem to work better) at the ideal range in which you wish to zero your scope…and suddenly you are almost done.   Now line up the scope’s cross-hairs with the laser dot on the target by adjusting the windage and elevation until you have your desired point of impact (red dot on target and cross-hairs aligning).   It’s really as easy as that.   With a little practice you can bore sight a new rifle or pistol in just a couple of minutes.   Be sure to read the unit’s complete instructions because there are some factors you’ll need to take into consideration when sighting-in at short ranges (say 25 to 50 yards).

Because the process is so quick I like to actually take the bore sighter completely out of the muzzle, tighten the adapters…then reinsert the unit to do it all over again.   Why do I do this?   Mostly because the process of bore sighting is so quick and easy it’s really not a big hassle.   Quite honestly, if after removing and replacing the sighting aid a few times I get the same settings on my scope…this helps to build my mental confidence that things are bore sighted properly for my equipment.

Keep in mind that bore sighting a gun is not a substitute for actually following up with some live round practice.   I think some people seem to confuse this.   Quite the contrary…bore sighting is merely an aid to hone in on getting the sights properly aligned for the barrel.   In theory, as well as in practice, if everything is done correctly with both bore sighting and live round sighting…the two should be reasonably close to one another.   Maybe within 4 to 6 inches, if you’re lucky…or at the very least getting you “on the paper” so you know where the gun is hitting and can then make the necessary adjustments.

Indeed, in the long run bore sighting a gun should save the sportsman money.   The $50 I spent on the sighter can be quickly justified when sighting in a high-dollar cartridge, such as a .338 Winchester Magnum.   It will also save you lots of frustration if you’re an occasional target shooter who admittedly is not savvy when it comes to adjusting a scope to achieve ultimate accuracy at the range or in the field.   Is a bore sighter absolutely necessary…of course not.   Is it worth the money…I think so.   As laser technology becomes more popular the price on these units will likely drop even further.

So how did my gun actually perform after the bore sighting procedure?   Next weekend I will have it at the range to run through the actual live fire tests.   I suspect it won’t be perfect, but I’m hoping it will be rather close.   When I first mounted the scope the cross-hairs were about a 12 inches to the right and 2 inches high at 100 yards…as compared to the bore sighter.   Frankly, I will be rather impressed if the gun would have fired even that close without the benefit of bore sighting…but time will tell.   Give one a try!

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