This Fall Is Shaping Up To Be Vastly Different Than Last Year

Remember last year…we did a lot of complaining about the crops not being taken out of the fields very early here in the upper Midwest.   In fact, at times the ag community was so far behind with the grain harvest it was severely impacting our hunting outings.   Last year by late October reports were still showing that less than 3 percent of the Minnesota corn harvest had been completed.   The first few weeks into November didn’t show much progress, either.

Now, fast-forward to this year.   Of course, this situation will vary slightly depending on where you go…but for a large section of the upper Midwest, 2010 has been a dream year for crop farmers.   No kidding — an early spring, a hot summer, with very timely rain showers has turned this year into what most agronomists would call “ideal.”   Just go to small town America and you’ll see the smiles on the farmers, their bankers and anyone associated with the crop production industry.IMG00310-20100830-1940

I’ve been speaking to a few farmers around my area in S.E. Minnesota and things are shaping up to be an exceptional year.   Most of my neighbors have corn fields that are within 7 to 10 days of reaching full maturity.   A few fields to the north of my location (with notably sandier, drier soil) already shows the corn crop foliage substantially turning a golden brown.

The bottom line is its fairly reasonable to say most crop production activities are at a minimum of two weeks ahead of what you could expect during an average year.

Now, compare this to the fall of 2009 and the contrast between the two seasons is bound to be quite striking.   Consider this…in Minnesota we are now less than three weeks away from the opener for archery deer.   If things continue at the pace they are on for many farmers you could see corn being combined in the fields BEFORE the opening of the archery season.   Let me tell you folks, that would be a highly unusual situation no matter how you look at it.

In fact, several agronomists are reporting that in southern Minnesota the corn is already drying down to a moisture content in the low 20s.   That’s only a few points higher than the ideal harvest moisture ranging in the 15 to 20% target range.   Once the corn crop hits this point farmers get anxious to start harvesting in hopes to prevent stalk damage (mostly due to wind or excess moisture).   When farmers consider there is nothing further to gain (by leaving the crop in the field longer)—and let’s face it that point may be only days away—the harvest officially begins in earnest.

An acquaintance of mine on Twitter, Chad Smith (@AgriCaster), who is the Farm Broadcaster for KLGR Radio out of Redwood Falls, Minnesota told me that several area farmers in his region expect to be harvesting corn BEFORE their soybeans this year.   Of course, that is totally backwards compared to the norm for how the harvest season generally flows.

So, what does all this mean for hunters this coming fall?   Potentially, some good news I would say.   But no matter how you look at it the fall of 2010 is going to be vastly different than last year for those of us in this region.   Early season archers might see the corn disappear a bit quicker than usual.   Pheasant hunters will surely have far less corn to deal with come opening day.   And late season firearms deer hunters will undoubtedly be dealing with a herd more confined to wooded acres as opposed to hiding in remaining standing corn fields.

How odd it is we are talking about the fall crop harvest when Labor Day has yet to arrive on the calendar.   I guess, if sportsmen in the upper Midwest are looking for a positive sign as to how the upcoming hunting seasons are likely to go…one only has to look in the agricultural zone to observe all the smiling faces.   It’s taking shape to be a good year for everyone!

©2010 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

I Really Hate To Admit This, But…

I’m getting old.   Oh, believe me, this is not going to be one of those complaining blog posts where I lament on the general increasing stiffness/soreness in my muscles.  Of course, I could talk about that because it is slowing happening with my body.   Nope, instead I’m going to talk about a sportsman (me) who realizes he now has some physical limitations in the field as he grows older.   In other words, I just can’t do all the same things having fun/staying safe that I once was able to do outdoors 25 years ago.

And that’s okay.   I think it’s important to evaluate your physical condition each fall before the hunting seasons begin.   If you’re not in shape…well, time is quickly ticking down to the openers…so get at it!   Maybe you’ve been feeling run-down lately for no particular reason.   Yeah, I hate to admit it, but guys, in particular, need to do a better job listening to our bodies.   If you’re noticing any physical change, such as lack of sleep, that might be a condition worth discussing with your doctor.   After all, most field casualty reports show a hunter is more likely to experience a medical emergency in the woods rather than enduring a traumatic event, such as a gunshot injury.

If it’s been too many years since your last doctor’s physical…it’s time to quit procrastinating.   Enough said on that topic.

I guess when I think about this subject I have James Rummel to blame for planting the seed in my head about feeling old.   Oh, he didn’t do that on purpose…yet he left quite an impression with me after the first time I met him.

James and I met last May at the Blackhawk Blogger’s Summit out in Virginia where we were killing some time at the hotel before the conference got underway.   Over lunch the topic of personal protection was discussed at length and James suggested to me that I consider carrying a walking cane when I can’t be protected by a concealed gun.   Using a cane was made even more intriguing when James suggested to me that for self-defense you can do a lot to protect yourself by choosing the correct cane.   After all, have you ever seen an airline stewardess, a bus driver or anyone else, for that matter, take a cane away from a handicapped person because they were fearful it might be used as a weapon?   Just doesn’t happen…at least not very often.

So, I told James okay this is all fine and dandy, but I could never fool people into thinking I need a cane.   Heck, I’m too young for such a walking aid such as that.   Boy, was I wrong…the next time I seen James he brought his cane and showed me just how easy it is to walk in such a way that shows the aid of a cane is necessary just to ambulate the body.

I was convinced.   A walking cane can be one of your best tools for self-defense when other methods are simply not available.   But to use a cane surely there’s another important component beyond feigning a handicapped gait.   One most also look the part and that requires a particular level of maturity that comes with qualifying for certain life benefits—like AARP membership, senior citizen dining privileges, etc.

In my mind I was convinced James could pull it off because he not only acted the part very nicely by walking with a cane, but his advanced age, compared to me, also gave him the mature look I just described.   Wow, was I in for a shocker!!

Thanks to Facebook, I was able to learn that my new blogging summit acquaintance was 16 months younger than me.   Talk about reality check.   I started to look more closely in the mirror and I soon began accepting the fact I’m not the young man I used to be.

It’s been several months now since the blogging summit, but I still think about that discussion James and I had about using a walking cane.  I think about it not so much for the self-defense purpose which was the real intent, but rather for the fact I’ve now reached an age where I could conceivably use a walking cane if my health dictated I needed one.

Along those lines, I started thinking about how accepting the notion I’m not as young as I used to be should influence my behavior in the field this fall.   A mere 20 years ago I used to trudge through the sloughs and set-aside acres looking for pheasants as if pushed by a mean drill sergeant.   Back then my body ran on adrenalin and I could more easily push it to more extreme limits.   Today, acting in such a manner would be utterly foolhardy, at best.   Not only would hunting pheasants that way not be fun anymore, but such a critical demand on my body simply could be asking for health troubles.

No, I really hate to admit that I’m getting older, but that admission to myself in no way detracts from my overall enjoyment of the outdoors.   Still, a person needs to be honest with themselves by appreciating what physical limitations they might now have.   If you get winded…take a rest.   If the aches or pains start creeping into the fun…be prepared with ibuprofen.   The bottom line is we all need to act our age and to better understand our ability when enjoying the fall hunts.   And part of that might be first accepting the fact how few of us are still as young as we’d still like to think we are.

©2010 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Have We Become Too Technology Oriented In The Outdoors?

Let me make a full disclosure…when it comes to gadgets and technology it is one of my guilty pleasures in life.   Digital range finders, GPS mapping, electronic calling devices, digital trail cameras…of course, the list could go on and on.   All fun stuff, right?   Well, sure it is.   Unless you are some devout purist who somehow resists the temptation of merging a 21st Century lifestyle with a century’s old outdoor sporting activity.   Although some folks do, I happen to not be one of them.

Well, I may have finally stumbled upon a product that finally crosses the line for me.   Seriously, a lot of products I’ve seen leave me shaking my head, but the concept behind this one sort of strikes a nerve.   Not that it’s anything outrageously bad, mind you, rather I just find this use of technology to be slightly disturbing.

When I first grew to appreciate the outdoors I did so as a trapper.   Now, let’s face it…what outdoor sport has more heritage and participants practicing an ancient wildlife activity than trapping?   I dare say even though traps have evolved in design over the past century, much of it has been rather cosmetic in nature.   Essentially traps used by my grandfather are pretty much the same ones as in use by me today.

That is until this new trapping gadget came along.Tele-Trap_v2_med

Imagine you set a trap for a wild critter and you no longer need to check it.   That’s right…basically you set it and forget it, until…<RING, RING> you get a call on your cell phone informing you that an animal has likely been captured by your trap.   A new device has been developed by Wildlife Control Supplies called the Tele-Trap Notifier incorporating wireless cell phone technology into its design.   Once an animal is trapped the unit will dial any number you program…it will even perform a follow-up call five minutes later just to make sure the user is paying attention.

As part of the alert it will tell you where the trap is located as well as a name.   I would have hoped it would also take a picture and include that information as part of the message, but apparently that feature has not yet been developed, but believe me it will be coming.

We first discovered these remote notifying devices a few years ago with the popular BuckEye Cam which would send trail cam pictures directly to a computer.   It seems only logical how cell phone technology can be incorporated into existing products in so many ways — some perhaps good, others…well, you decide.

Now let’s be fair about this.   The Tele-Notifier is a device developed in conjunction with the University of Nebraska and intended for use by professional wildlife control personnel.   At $350 per unit you won’t find these out on the traditional trapline.   Nope, instead, look for these to be put in use by companies that do private wildlife control in urban areas where knowing an animal has been captured can save time, money and perhaps even further justify the homeowner’s expense for the services.

Believe me, I’m not knocking the device as I think the concept behind it is interesting.   Still, I have to pause and wonder just a bit where such technological use could potentially take us.   Right now most states require trappers to tend their traps regularly as prescribed by law.   Could the day come when a recreational trapper simply sets his/her trapline and then chooses to sit at home in the easy chair waiting for success to call?

There comes a time in our outdoor sporting life when we all must ask ourselves where does the technological line get drawn.   Simply because a device or gadget is developed doesn’t make it necessarily right for our general use in the outdoors.   The further we gravitate toward technology the more we lose touch with each of the instinctive and deeply human pleasures associated with appreciating the outdoors.

Personally, I don’t need a phone call to announce my success as a trapper.   After all, I can’t imagine it to be anywhere near as exciting as walking up to a trap and discovering it first-hand with one’s own eyes, incidentally the same way trappers have been doing it for well over three centuries.

©2010 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.