Building New Memories While Cherishing The Old Ones

As many of my loyal blog readers probably know, I spent part of my career working professionally as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for nearly 12 years with an Advanced Life Support (Paramedic) ambulance service.   With several thousand emergency calls “under my belt,” so to speak, it is still common for me to drive down the road reliving what emergency event happened at this intersection or that one…or perhaps driving by a house where I would remember being on a medical crisis of some sort.   Fact is, the location would take me back in time giving reason to ponder both people and circumstances.

IMG_4134This weekend the Minnesota Firearms Deer Hunting Opener kicked off and I did much of the same.   As I walked around my 160 acre farm with rolling hills and a meandering stream — my little paradise — I took time to remember hunts gone by and the people who once shared the experience.

As I walked by one old dilapidated deer stand I thought about my former co-worker, Barry, who hailed from Washington State.   He always wanted to deer hunt, so I offered up my property back 20 years ago so he could finally experience it.   The stand is long since gone now, and so has the friendship.   I guess I lost contact with him shortly after he hunted here.

Then there was my cousin Gary.   For nearly as many years as I have hunted on this farm, he was here part of the action.   I blogged about Gary back in December of 2004 describing just what he meant to my life.   Three weeks later he passed away from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).   Even though he may not physically be with me anymore, I still felt his presence during the hunt by cherishing past memories.

Speaking of hunters passing on, I walked by several other deer stands that have long since been abandoned but were erected by another deceased hunting camerade.   Greg only hunted on the farm for maybe three or four years, but during that time he sure made things interesting for all the other hunters.   Unfortunately, Greg died from a head injury sustained in an ATV accident a couple years back.

One of the most fond memories I have of “The Hunt” came back in 2006 when I hosted Governor Tim Pawlenty here for the Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener festivities.   What turned out to be about 4 months of planning and preparing was completed after about 4 hours of actual deer hunting.   It was an exciting time for all of us in the hunting party…and one we will long cherish.

Indeed, over the years there have been many other hunters who have left their mark in the woods…mostly in some small way.   Nevertheless, the mark is indelibly etched in my mind.   Hunters such as Dale, Howard, Kevin, Steve, Kerry, John, Jim, etc. who no longer partake in the annual tradition, but I still have lingering memories of the many great times once shared.

IMG_4128And now I embark on a new generation of memory making.   This year for the first time my stepson, Luke, joined me in the deer stand carrying an actual hunting firearm (in the past he’s only carried a BB gun).   As I watched his eyes I could see he was soaking up the experience like a big sponge.   How exciting.   Even though he is a “newbie” to this sport I deeply cherish, I can see the excitement leaching into his soul much like it has done to mine many years ago.

When people ask me about this past weekend I must confess I did not shoot a deer.   But somehow that doesn’t seem all that important to me anymore.   Instead, deer hunting is about the people with whom I once shared the experience.   I mourn those hunters who have passed on, as well as those who have simply chosen to move on.

And like those old roads I travel down as an EMT, walking the woods dredges up many old memories for me, too.   Long gone are the days when I needed to see or shoot a deer to be having fun hunting.   Indeed, I have reached the point in my life where I just thank God to still have the opportunity to participate and appreciate the many fond experiences I’ve already lived.   To me, that’s what deer hunting is really all about.

2008 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Time To Take A Deep Breath…And Assess Our Wounds!

For the past several months this lawn sign stood proudly at the end of my driveway proclaiming my feelings about Barack Obama.


This evening, now, sportsmen are finally accepting our worst fears that the 44th President of the United States is a gun-hating, radical liberal who will no doubt change the way we enjoy our beloved lifestyle for the sake of appeasing his supporters.   If you’re a hunter and you voted for “CHANGE” then shame on you.   Grab your seat belts and buckle up…we’re in for some bumpy roads just ahead.

2008 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Experiencing Trapping Success

One of my earliest ventures in the outdoors when I was a youth was spent learning how to trap.   The activity challenged me.   Heck, trapping even inspired other outdoors-related pursuits.   Yet, most of all trapping has always been a sport that has humbled me.   It seems just when you begin thinking you’ve got things figured out…consistently empty traps will prove you still have lots to learn about how nature works.

This morning I hooked up with my neighbor riding along checking his short line of predator traps.   For Todd, the activity of trapping is much like it is for me.   If either of us has enough time in the fall to set out a half dozen or so traps you consider yourself lucky.   And so it goes.

For those not familiar with the sport of trapping there is basically two types.   There’s land trapping for coyotes, fox, coon and similar animals.   Then, of course, there’s water trapping for creatures more commonly associated with life around streams, ponds and lakes — animals such as mink, muskrat, beaver, raccoon, etc.   I’d say about 95% of my time trapping has been spent in or near water.   And while I consider my skills as a trapper pretty near the novice level compared to some folks I know, nevertheless it still can be a rewarding experience filled with excited anticipation as you approach each of your “sets.”

Today, I was lucky to be with Todd, my neighbor, when he scored on the trapline.   A nice Grey Fox greeted us at his third set.


After quickly dispatching the animal, we both took pause to admire the raw beauty of the animal.   Man, it had been several years since either of us had seen a gray fox since this area has started to get overrun by coyotes.   Coyotes have a tendency to push fox populations out as they just don’t seem to be very compatible within the same territory.


After a few photos of the successful trapper and his nice catch, he quickly freshened up the area and re-set his trap with hopes of experiencing additional happy mornings like this one.


“Running a trapline” is perhaps one of the most challenging activities a sportsman can undertake.   Anyone can do it, and call themselves a “trapper.”   But until you become accomplished at perfecting your technique you rarely get to experience the sweet taste of success.   Much like trying to waylay an old trophy buck, it takes persistence, practice and a confident attitude in order to succeed.


Oh, and when you think you have everything going your way it doesn’t hurt to have the right alignment of the stars on your side, too, for just a little luck.

2008 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.