Move over Men…Women Are Discovering the Outdoors in Droves

I suppose it was about 20 years ago when my friend Mike made a comment that will forever stick in my mind. He was much younger then, recently married, and his wife wanted to spend as much time as she possibly could with him. Indeed, Mike’s wife wanted to discover all aspect’s of his life…including sharing his interest for the outdoors.

Of course, Mike did not want that to happen. He wanted the time spent outdoors to be just with the boys…the last bastion of male independence and freedom…a time away from women and all associated “girly” things. The infamous comment he made to me was summed up much like this…“my wife is bugging me to go out duck hunting and I don’t know how much longer I can put her off. I just know that when she goes it is going to be the coldest damn day of the year so she never wants to go hunting again.” In other words, Mike’s goal was to get any future thoughts of his wife going hunting ever again completely out of her mind.

Now let’s fast forward 20 years or so. I was talking with Mike just the other day and he was telling me that this year he plans to bring his daughter, Kelsey, deer hunting for the first time. He gave her the option…she gave it lots of thought…and then told her dad that she wanted to hunt deer. In fact, she wanted to experience everything about the hunt…although she wasn’t real keen on having to gut the deer if she was successful. Last I heard Mike is planning to bring his daughter hunting and he is very excited about this opportunity to share special time with her.

Hmmm…. What has changed during the past two decades? Did Mike’s attitude finally mature so he now better understands that women in the outdoors could be an acceptable occurrence…or has society in general become more accepting, if not downright encouraging of women who are discovering new opportunities to enjoy the outdoors?

Not to discredit my friend Mike—although that has never stopped me before— I do think that societal attitudes have certainly changed towards women who enjoy hunting and fishing. What was once a taboo form of recreation for a lady is now very much acceptable, in fact I dare say in some circles it could be encouraged. Personally, nothing could please me more than to see this gender evolution taking place in our outdoor world.

There are two popular programs that are at the forefront of inspiring women to live and enjoy the outdoors. The primary program is Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) and the other program is sponsored through the National Wild Turkey Federation and is called Women in the Outdoors. Both programs offer weekend workshops to help ladies grow outdoor skills in a friendly, pressure-free environment. Oddly enough, many of the women who attend these programs actually are more comfortable gaining their outdoor knowledge from these programs, rather than a well-meaning male in their life. In fact, learning from a significant other can often challenge the patience of both the teacher and the student with so many new skills that must be presented and developed.

Even so, outdoors women are learning something that men have long ago discovered—the outdoors…whether it be hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, etc…can be a perfect opportunity to build camaraderie among pals and to foster new friendships. If you’ve ever been around a group of women in one of these programs you will also learn one other thing…and that is these ladies know how to have fun. They can laugh at themselves…but they also pull together and will help each other develop the new skills much better than many of their male counterparts will do in similar circumstances.

I truly believe that seeing women become active in the same sports that many of us males enjoy is a very positive happening. It’s no accident that outdoors women are one of the fastest growing segments of the outdoors industry. Today camo clothing is made exclusively for women…women have their own waders, their own hunting and fishing equipment…and they don’t just settle for the same items that guys use. Indeed, today’s woman has an attitude that they belong in the woods or on the water…and many of them are prepared to prove it.

As far as my friend Mike is concerned, it’s refreshing to see he’s now developed a healthy attitude that his only daughter should have the very same opportunities that both of his boys experienced. Kelsey plays hockey…and this year she will be deer hunting for the first time. Best of all, seated next to her in the deer stand will be her loving dad who is very proud to finally provide that opportunity for his little girl.

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

Mourning Doves: The Re-birth of a New Hunting Tradition

Okay, I’m going to be honest with you. This is not a fluff piece about how wonderful mourning dove hunting is now that the activity has returned to Minnesota after a long hiatus. On the other hand, for the record, I am a strong supporter of anything to increase our opportunities for enjoying the great outdoors.

I happen to believe that hunting mourning doves is an activity that is very conservation minded. In my mind, conservation is defined as the wise use of a resource. In fact, with the average life-span of the doves typically less than 1 ½ years, harvesting a portion of the population seems to make perfect sense.
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So, with Minnesota’s first dove season in many decades half over, what type of sportsman made it out into the field this fall hunting? Well, from my take on it there were several folks just curious about the sport having never done it before. With the season opening on September 1st it was also a good excuse to get the gun out of the closet and get the cob-webs dusted off. For many of these folks, they probably feel that the fall season is short enough, so here is a way to extend it out by starting early.

On the other hand, I know a certain segment of Minnesota sportsmen probably are very familiar with dove hunting. Sportsmen with the means to travel internationally find Argentina a very popular dove hunting destination. So, for these sportsmen who are familiar with mid-winter international dove hunts, a Minnesota outing might be a nice change of pace, albeit with likely much less success. In other words, in Minnesota a hunter would have to work hard for his birds compared to some of the pictures I’ve seen from places like Argentina.

The question remains will mourning dove hunting catch on in Minnesota? It’s hard to tell at this point…my guess is that like anything else it’s a novelty at first, but once the newness wears off the sport will lose popularity.

But popularity aside, this sportsman is hoping that Minnesota’s new dove season has a long and healthy existence. Opportunities create interest…and even though I might not personally be moved to set up dove decoys and wait for passing shots along a fenceline, that doesn’t mean plenty of other sportsmen will not find the sport extremely exciting. So for that reason I am a big fan of the sport even if I know I will likely never participate.

A similar example is that of trapping. In Minnesota there is roughly 7,000 trappers annually…which amounts to a very small percentage of the overall number of sportsmen in this state. Still, I believe trappers deserve the full support and understanding of other sportsmen even if the majority of sportsmen do not choose to participate. A wide variety of opportunities…whether it be dove shooting, trapping, or some other fairly obscure outdoor sport, deserves the full support of everyone in the sporting fraternity.

I’m encouraged to see a new hunting sport added to the hunting synopsis this year. It tells me that, at least politically, our precious heritage is gaining back a tradition it lost long ago. The trend has been to see our sporting opportunities eroding, but in Minnesota at least for 2004, it will go down in our history books as a year of growth…and I think for that we should all be encouraged.

© 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.

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SCORE ONE POINT FOR LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT
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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.
□ But here’s the biggie…AS OF THIS WRITING THERE HAVE BEEN NO DEATHS DUE TO THE MPPA.

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.