Are Special Interest Groups Killing The Sport Of Hunting?

That seems to possibly be the case in my home state of Minnesota.   Particularly when it comes to deer hunting and potential upcoming changes in the current rules and regulations for that sport.   Consider this recipe for disaster:  Throw in a small minority of outspoken do-gooders with radical ideas on how to improve the current hunting management system.   Add to that a dash of the local outdoors media hungry for several column inches of newsworthy copy.   Then stir in MN DNR big game managers who are so antsy to make rule changes they cannot even hide their growing excitement.   What does this mixture get you?   Well, in my opinion it erodes the true spirit of what I call “the hunt.”

Even though today’s blog post focuses on Minnesota, I suspect that these same problems occur in many other states.   The problem quickly develops when a vocal minority of hunters (or fishermen, as the case may be) decide it’s high time the rules for the sport need to be changed so that a specific outcome better satisfies their wants and needs of how they enjoy the sport.

Let me give you an example as to what I mean.   In southeastern Minnesota we have a group of deer hunters called the Bluffland Whitetails Association.   Although this group makes claims they are not a trophy deer or QDM organization, it is quite clear that the movers and shakers of this group want to see more mature deer.   What would make this group happy at the legislative level?   Essentially any regulatory restriction that would enable a greater number of bucks of a mature age class running around the bluffland/farm country terrain of S.E. Minnesota.

Okay, it’s hard to argue that point, isn’t it?   After all, don’t most of us deer hunters have a dream of shooting “Mr. Big” when we head out to the woods each fall?   Well, of course…but the point is hunting is a multi-faceted activity and not all hunters measure their satisfaction based on the total inches of bone showing above a deer’s head.   Quite honestly, the factors that motivate a particular individual to sit for hours on end in the chilly November woods waiting for a deer are likely as unique as that particular individual (or the group of hunters in which they happen to belong).

Personally, I don’t believe, based on my experience, that the BWA has the best interests of most Minnesota deer hunters in mind.   I, for one, consider myself more of a social deer hunter meaning that I happen to enjoy the fact Minnesota is one of the few states remaining that allows “party hunting” for deer.   Essentially what that means is if you are hunting in close proximity to another hunter in your group, you may either fill that person’s unused game tag or they may fill yours.   That’s where the concept of party hunting or cross-tagging comes into play here in Minnesota.

To me hunting is mostly about tradition and during the 30+ years I have hunted deer, party hunting has been allowed in Minnesota.   Strip away long-standing traditions such as this to achieve so-called management goals and you erode away the very essence of why I pick up a gun and head to the deer woods each fall.   I can assure you that many other hunters (I’m guessing the majority) feel much the same way.

A few weeks back the Bluffland Whitetails Association held an invitation-only symposium to further convince the Minnesota DNR how badly change is needed to our current system (i.e. eliminate party hunting of bucks, et al).   Of course, the gathering was off-limits to those of us who might speak in opposition to the proposals being put forth.   Quite honestly, the thought of a special interest group (BWA) using a closed-door meeting for purposes to encourage hunting policy to our DNR rule-making officials is quite disturbing to me.

Yet, BWA is not alone here in Minnesota.   Now, Minnesota DNR officials are listening to another outspoken group of hunters who appear bent on getting deer management done “their way” in southwestern Minnesota.   Yup, the Southwestern Minnesota Deer Coalition has a totally different goal in mind.   They are meeting with the DNR officials tomorrow to see management changes that include shooting less does, moving the season until later, etc.

Again, I ask is this group representative of what Minnesota’s 500,000+ deer hunters sign-up for when they go afield each fall?   I have my doubts, which of course leads to my deep concerns.

Certainly I will admit one important point.   Minnesota is a diverse state and managing the deer population in southern Minnesota probably has uniquely different challenges to how it should be managed in Northern Minnesota.   Keep in mind, if you were to drive from Iowa to the Canadian border it would take you about 8 to 9 hours of non-stop travel.   During that time you would observe many different habitat changes where deer must exist in Minnesota.

Still, I contend in this blog post that to make radical changes (interfering with traditions) in how Minnesota’s deer hunting season exists will have some big consequences.   Do game managers satisfy the whims of the minority thus disregarding the desires of the majority of this state’s deer hunters?   Or, do game managers and legislators finally acknowledge that the largest group of its constituent deer hunters really are just happy with the status quo.

Problem is the squeaky wheel always gets the grease, and that will likely hold true in this situation, as well.   My fear is there are enough people currently squeaking and squawking about how they have a “better idea” for how we all must deer hunt in Minnesota.   These geniuses simply have no acceptance or tolerance for the fact that some of us abhor the kind of change they are seemingly shoving down our throat with their radical rule proposals.

When hunting (or be it fishing, the outdoors in general, etc.) gets hijacked by special interest groups the ones who suffer most are the common sportsman who simply wants to enjoy the activity the same way they’ve done so for many years before.   Sometimes the price to pay for MORE deer or even BIGGER deer is not worth the real sacrifice to be made.   Especially when that sacrifice comes from a majority of hunters who are not even buying into the great deer hunting benefits being proposed.

© 2009 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

The Minnesota DNR Releases More Info On Lead Fragmentation (Venison)

Today the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released findings on a recent study that indicates ballistic lead fragments were found up to 18 inches away from wound channels.   The study, conducted on sheep instead of deer, was done in an effort to learn more about the risks associated with using lead projectiles during our deer hunting activities.

Earlier this summer I attended a conference on this same topic.   You can read more about that HERE.   What we are now getting is some additional follow-up research that looks at various types of firearms and loads to see which ones are more prone to causing serious lead contamination in the meat.

To see a video of the testing conducted link HERE.

To read more on the results of the testing released today link HERE.

In a nutshell, here’s how I feel on the topic.   Granted, more evidence is coming forward that microscopic pieces of lead can be found in our wild game, particularly deer.   Sure, there are some common-sense measures that hunters can take to reduce the risks associated with ingesting lead.   But the point remains that there have been literally millions upon millions of meals consumed by hunters and their families over the past 100+ years and there has never been a single documented incident of lead levels effecting the hunter, their spouse or even young children as a result of eating wild game.

Now I understand that evidence is evidence and you can’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to safety, but most families I know eat venison only on an occasional basis.   Oh sure, when possible it would be best to use some of the higher-tech bullets on the market that do not contain lead.   But in the meantime, is any of this going to change the manner in which I hunt or enjoy the fruits of the kill?   Well, I maybe will cut around the wound channel a bit more generously than I have in the past…but for the time being that’s about it.

Get out there and enjoy the hunt.   If you let it, topics like lead in our deer, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), and the like will drive us out of the woods causing us to hang up our guns permanently.   That’s certainly not what this news should be all about.   Be informed…but also be realistic to the dangers.

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

Bulldozing For Deer: Taking Action To Improve The Hunt

After last fall’s deer hunting season I knew some radical changes needed to take place to certain areas in my hunting woods.   What was once the most prime spot to hunt deer 20 years ago had become so overgrown and gnarly that I could hardly sneak into the area to my old stand.   Moreover, if I hunted from the stand my chances of seeing a deer were greatly reduced by trees and brush that had gotten way out of control.

So, I decided it was time to do something a bit radical.   Last fall I told my local excavator to put me on the list for some early spring bulldozing work.   When he asked what he would be doing…I simply said creating shooting lanes in part of my woods and making a network of trails so I could start over.

Apparently he didn’t see the seriousness on my face when I gave him my explanation.   He reiterated what I just said.   “You mean, you want me to come into your woods to clear some brush just to improve your deer hunting?”   “You got it,” I told him.   I was willing to pay several hundred dollars for the services if that’s what it took to dramatically improve my deer hunting experience.

After all, I figure hunters routinely pay hundreds of dollars for new clothes, for new guns and for other “essentials” for the hunt.   Why not do something to invest in the deer woods that, if now properly cared for, will pay big dividends for many years to come.   Well, that’s sort of my take on the action, anyway.

Here’s a few pictures of what took place:







Essentially, a whole new trail system was created around a once popular hillside where the deer liked to roam.   So, did the deer show up as planned?   They sure did…in fact, only days later my trail cameras showed several dozen deer photos proving this will be a popular area once again come fall.   Take a look:



Not to mention the turkeys….


I encourage you this spring get a bit radical, if necessary, to make improvements on the land where you deer hunt.   I think you will see it is both money and time well spent.   Incidentally, where all the ground was tore up by the bulldozer it has now been planted with various food plot mixes to get some favorable plant growth going in those areas.

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