The Harvest Moon

Did you happen to notice the fall sky last evening? Did you even know there was a full moon? Maybe you knew that the first full moon of the fall sky was called the Harvest Moon.

You know, I don’t think a lot of sportsmen seem to care about it…but I am fascinated by the moon and stars and the role it plays in all of our outdoor lives. Often times when I am sitting quietly in the deer stand waiting for daybreak it is too damn dark to even see the palm of your hand. But glance up into the heavens and you’ll see a sky filled with curiosity and wonder.

Oddly enough, I think many of today’s modern citizens have lost their connection with the lunar cycles. If they happen to notice there’s a full moon…about the only meaning this has to their life is they can probably see the keyhole at night when unlocking the door to their house. But what a shame…because the moon plays such an important role in the life of most everything around us.

According to Indian legend the moon closest to the autumnal equinox was referred to as the Harvest Moon. It was aptly named because with the shortening daylight as we move towards winter, a full moon would give those extra hours of plant harvesting opportunity. Thus, the first moon of fall (or technically the first full moon closest to the AE) was known as the Harvest Moon. Many folks believe the Harvest Moon is the fullest and brightest moon of the entire year.

So, do you know what the other moons are called? Well, the next moon in succession after the Harvest Moon is called the Hunter’s Moon. Stands to reason…when cold weather has abruptly ended the growing season it hearkens a time in the lifecycle to focus efforts on building up the meat resources for those upcoming winter months.

How about the next full moon? Well, this one is commonly referred to as the Trapper’s Moon. This year, the Trapper’s Moon will occur on November 26th. Are you beginning to see a pattern here on how the names seem to correlate with what is happening in the Native American lifecycle? Other moons in the Native American lifecycle have names such as Snow Moon, Starvation Moon, Planting Moon, Worm Moon, etc. With just a little bit of imagination I’m sure you can figure out when most of these months occur.

But as a sportsman, my interest in the moon goes far beyond the cutesy little names that our forefathers and native folks gave the lunar cycle. For me it’s the mystery of the moon that holds the most intrigue. It seems as though the more mankind learns about the effects the moon has on the earth…the more questions that seem to arise.

Case in point. When waterfowl researchers started studying the migration patterns and habits of waterfowl, they soon discovered the moon and stars played an integral role in the movements of ducks and geese. In some mysterious sense, the stars acted much like a GPS guidance system allowing these birds to traverse thousands of miles to locate the very spot they migrated from only months earlier. Likewise, the moon acted almost like an atomic clock that would trigger an alarm for these birds to make the big trek.

So what are we to do about using the moon as a guide for us hunting? Well, Jeff Murray, an outdoors writer from Duluth, has some ideas. In fact, he’s taken the moon and its effects on nature to a new level. Murray believes if you are not paying attention to the moon you are not serious about your hunting. Check out more here.

Personally, I’m less interested in the moon’s apogee and perigee than I am in just seeing a beautiful full moon illuminating the night’s sky. Then last night, with the Harvest Moon burning bright…and the first killing frost of the season here in Minnesota…in my mind nature has now “officially” turned the page welcoming in the new fall season.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

This Fall Don’t Forget the Landowners

It never ceases to amaze me how hunters and landowners could improve their relationship so much by some rather small acts of kindness. Let me preface today’s topic by first admitting that I have been a hunter for over 25 years, but a landowner (by proxy with my family) most of my life. So I come at this topic with perhaps a slightly different perspective seeing it from both sides.

Each time I think about the topic of landowner/sportsmen relations I fondly recall an experience with my late Uncle Herman. Several years ago, on the opening of pheasant season, I stopped by the farm house just to tell him of my intentions of hunting the “back 40,” so to speak. He was so excited as he showed me several boxes of potato chips that some hunters had just dropped off. It seems that every year this group of hunters who worked at potato chip factory in the Twin Cities brought some of their goods to share with the landowner. Hmmm…what a novel idea!

Do you realize what an impression this small gesture made with my uncle the landowner? He actually looked forward each year to pheasant season hoping “the potato chip guys” would return. It wasn’t so much that the bags of chips amounted to a large monetary value…no, it was the fact that these guys came offering something…and not just expecting something in return. Truth be known, I’m not even sure these guys worked at a potato chip factory…and it didn’t really matter…they accomplished something very important that far too many sportsmen forget.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that trading goods or services for hunting permission is not always required. In fact, you might even run into some landowners who could feel threatened by such action. Legally speaking, a landowner who accepts something of value (goods or services) could potentially be setting themselves up for greater liability issues. However, the vast majority of sportsmen and landowners are going to see the exchange of gifts or other niceties as simply a way to connect with the other person. And that’s the way it should be. When a landowner remembers you (because of a unique gift) from the throngs of truckloads full of hunters that drop by…you’ve accomplished something important.

Years ago when I first started hunting out in Montana a good friend of mine explained the importance of “connecting” with the Western landowner. Sure, they have many of the same motivations as the Midwestern landowner, such as wanting to know who’s on their land…but out West it is possible to strike up an even deeper relationship. And who benefits by doing that? Well, you do…Mr. Sportsman.

Imagine going from perfect strangers and then creating a relationship where you are one of the first people the landowner calls when announcing to family and friends the good news of the engagement of their daughter. Or imagine a sportsman who travels to Montana to spend time with the landowner when his wife is hospitalized battling cancer? Well, I’ve built such a relationship and I’ve done so over the course of about 10 years.

How do you do it? Oh, it can start out with gifts…that’s always nice, but eventually it needs to go way beyond that. Many landowners out West are very open to creating new relationships with people they trust. The object is getting to that level of trust. To do this you need to demonstrate that you care about them…and not just the land they own where you want to hunt. You need to pick up the phone around the holidays and tell them you were thinking of them and just wanted to say hi. Soon, they will get the message that you care about them…and not just for the reason they happen to be the gatekeeper to some prime hunting land.

Everyone has their own style and you need to read people. This fall if you drop in on a farmer and he’s busy picking corn…that is probably not the best time to expect to schmooze for any period of time. Likewise, if the farmer is trying to beat some on-coming storm he may not even want to stop working at all. Besides, asking for permission early shows respect and most landowners view this as a gesture of respect, and not just some afterthought as you drive down the country highway.

In summary…make an impression with the landowner. Don’t just tell the landowner that you’ll be responsible and caring while hunting on his property…prove it by asking early and being considerate. Let the landowner get to know you so you move away from being a stranger…and start becoming a friend.

Then later this season when the holidays approach, why not send that landowner a special holiday card with a handwritten message explaining what a wonderful time you had on their property. Finally, if you want to leave an impression that lasts…include a gift certificate to a local favorite restaurant with that card. If you’re lucky, that act just might indelibly etch your name into the landowners mind for next year…and perhaps many more years to come.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.

SCORE: LRT = 1, MPPA = 0

When you attend most ballgames and look up at the scoreboard you would think that team that has more points is usually winning. Well, typically this is true…but my topic today is no ordinary ballgame. No…it involves two very serious matters chock full of politics and woven deeply with emotions.

This past weekend the new Light Rail Transit (LRT) system running in the Twin Cities experienced its first fatality. In just a short three months of operation, the controversial Hiawatha Line system has been running, for the most part, problem free. In fact, if you’ve driven down the Hiawatha corridor towards Minneapolis you would wonder how an accident could even occur with all the lights, stop arms and bells that ring out to announce an approaching rail car.

But on Saturday, September 25th, an elderly gentleman got confused and crossed with his car in front of a high speed train killing him. Click here to read more. That wasn’t supposed to happen. The system had all the necessary safeguards in place to prevent such deadly potential. The experts all agreed this transit system was state-of-the-art and could serve as a model around the country for safety design.


On May 28, 2003, the Minnesota Personal Protection Act (MPPA) went into effect essentially turning Minnesota into a “shall issue” state from its previous “may issue” handling of gun permit applicants. In a nutshell, this new handgun law took the discretionary powers away from the local Chief of Police or Sheriff and made it mandatory for them to issue “conceal carry” permits to applicants, unless they could demonstrate a compelling reason why the applicant should not have a gun.

As soon as the new law went into effect thousands flocked to their local sheriffs to apply for one of these new coveted permits. In fact, I was one of those sportsmen who felt spending $100 was a small price to pay to be granted the special privileges the new law allowed. I took the necessary gun handling course, had my range time, and passed all the background checks. By the end of July 2003 I was granted my permit to carry.

Yet, ever since this issue passed on the floor of the legislature it has been a lighting rod of controversy. The dire predictions of a lawless state and shootouts in the Metrodome had many casual observers convinced that this had to be one of the stupidest laws ever to make it on the books. Their prediction of 90,000 new permit holders after the first year meant 90,000 more guns to worry about on our streets…in our stores…and, oh my gosh, in our houses of worship. See also. Argh….

Well…even as of today, as I write this, the controversy rages on with a district court judge striking down the new law on a technicality of legislative procedure. Still, these facts remain:

□ Roughly one-third of the anticipated applicants actually applied.
□ The issue has been largely out of the news…at least to the extent of any negative occurrences with permit holders.

Did you read that last point? A full 16-months after the new law went into effect there has yet to be an incident with a permit holder (justified, or not) where a death has occurred. Simply unbelievable. Where are all the pundits who predicted our hospitals would be filled with innocent victims? Where are all the folks who said our state has lost its “Minnesota Nice” and would now be branded negatively with stories of carnage? Well, they sure as hell aren’t stepping up to admit they were wrong.

Certainly this game is not over and I do not expect the score to forever be a shut-out. Accidents WILL happen and that is the unfortunate thing about life. Still, I think its important to emphasize there’s no public outrage and crying about LRT killing an innocent victim. But I’ll grant you this one little prediction…the first time there’s a death somehow tied to the MPPA, the public scrutiny and outcry will be against ALL GUN OWNERS…and somehow this sportsman doesn’t feel that will be fair. Unfortunately, this is a game where there are no referees to call foul when one side plays by different rules than the other.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.