The Mother’s Day vs. MN Fishing Opener Dilemma

Unless you didn’t realize it…fishing is big here in Minnesota.   Roughly speaking, about one in every four adult residents purchase a Minnesota fishing license.   I’ve also heard it estimated that about one for every seven state residents have a registered boat in their name.   And yet there is only one day of the year when more than a million anglers will take to Minnesota’s waters at the same time for the primary purpose of catching the state fish — the walleye.

That’s right, the Minnesota Fishing Opener is but 10 days away and already the hype and excitement is beginning to crescendo. (Click HERE to listen to a song put out by Rapala)   So you don’t think the “Fishing Opener” is a uniquely Minnesota event?   Granted, I know there are fishing openers in many parts of the country for various species, but I dare say nothing quite compares to the hype that takes place in Minnesota.   Need more proof?   Do a Google search with the words “fishing opener.”   Listings relating to Minnesota outnumber all other states by a margin of about three to one.

Not only is the fishing opener big business here in Minnesota, but in many families it has grown to be a big bone of contention as predominantly the males of the household head off to the lake fishing.   Ordinarily this wouldn’t be so terrible…but what makes matters worse is the almost perennial conflict of the MN Fishing Opener weekend with Mother’s Day.   In fact, only in the years 2011, 2016, 2022 and 2033 during the next 25+ years will the opener be the weekend after Mother’s Day.   That being said, for many sportsmen here in this state we must annually live with the guilt and disappointment of missing another Mother’s Day.

Even the Minnesota DNR must feel a bit guilty causing this common family predicament.   In fact, a few years ago they initiated the “Take A Mom Fishing” weekend that just happens to coincide with Mother’s Day weekend.   All bona fide mother’s can fish the opener without a license.   Hmmm…   That’s pretty interesting.   You don’t see a similar such freebie when Father’s Day rolls around a month later.  

Needless to say that ever since Minnesota went with this current structure on their fishing season it has caused a great deal of angst among many.   Oh, sure, the solution sounds rather simple.   Just take mom fishing!   But often the simplest solutions to a problem does not often coexist in harmony with reality.   Even moms who love fishing don’t always favor doing so on “their special day.”   And so the age-old problem usually develops forcing anglers to make an uncomfortable choice.

This year I’m once again leaving my mother and my wife for the inviting call of fish camp.   Do I feel a bit guilty for my angling absence…well, of course I do.   In my mind, however, the tradition of socializing and communing with a bunch of like-minded sportsmen in fish camp is nearly as important.   Certainly there will be much better days ahead for fishing later in the season.   Even the weather is likely to be much more cooperative and pleasant a month from now.   Yet, nothing quite equates to the inexplicable mystique of being in Fish Camp on the Minnesota Fishing Opener.   The excitement…the history…the camaraderie…and let’s not forget, the price we all pay (some more so than others) for abandoning the women in our life in lieu of a fish with big ol’ glass eyes.   Ahh….to live the life of a fisherman!!  

2007 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission

Burning To Benefit Wildlife: A Photo Essay

IMG_2781Most of us sportsmen are keenly aware of the benefits of doing a controlled burn in the spring to re-invigorate vegetative growth aiding all of nature.   From prairie grasses, to song birds, to game animals like deer and pheasant…there’s no disputing how burning as part of a total wildlife management plan is a good thing for all of nature.   To learn more about controlled or prescribed burns, please link here.

Yesterday I caught up with a crew that travels about nine different states in the spring to do these contract controlled burns for private individuals and for the government.   I thought you might like to see a few more of the sights associated with what takes place out on the fire line.   Check out this gallery.

2007 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission

What If Hunters Went On Strike For A Few Years?

Pick up the newspaper on almost any given day and you will likely read about someone threatening to go on strike.   It seems to be a popular tactic in the airlines industry, in particular.   Name just about any major carrier and there will be a history of strike activity or talk.   Heck, even our professional sports teams occasionally go on strike sometimes leaving us without summer baseball or winter hockey.   No doubt about it the talk and threat of going on strike is a hard-core tactic employed by a large number of workers out in the work force.

But what about hunters?   What if we threatened to go on strike?   Sounds ludicrous…maybe, but consider the impact that action would have on our society.   Society in general takes hunters for granted and we’ve learned by watching the media that one of the best ways to gain attention to a cause is to start talking strike.   Okay, now granted getting people to lay down their guns and bows for a few years would not be a popular request…but it would have considerable economic impact.

Consider this:

“According to a report released last year by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Potential Costs of Losing Hunting and Trapping as Management Practices, four percent of the nation’s 6.1 million auto accidents reported to the police—or 247,000 incidents—involved direct collisions with animals, as indicated by the Center for Disease Control and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Deer are involved in 86.9 percent of injury cases. If hunting were lost as a wildlife management tool, state wildlife agencies estimate an additional 50,000 injuries per year, and $3.8 billion in additional auto repair costs.”

Do you think with an extra 50,000 injuries per year due to wildlife-related car accidents that would spur a public outcry to get hunters back into the woods?   Do you think with all of us paying a bit more for our vehicle insurance because of the increased repair costs this would prod the public to encourage hunters to get back into the woods?   Hard to tell…but the point I am trying to make here is as a group sportsman have some definite clout and perhaps it’s time the public realizes that our actions in the woods accomplishes much more than just a little relaxation on the weekend.

Truth is hunters are indeed a very important management tool helping to control wildlife populations.   Game departments regulate the seasons…but hunters operating within that established framework regulate wildlife levels to keep population levels healthy and manageable.

Indeed, I believe sportsmen have more clout than perhaps we sometimes realize.   If we didn’t hunt for a few years think of how out of control the deer would get eating the farmer’s corn fields.   Think of how disease would start running rampant among many wildlife populations because that’s what often happens when numbers get out of control.   Imagine how the tourist industry would be impacted by hunters suddenly not traveling to their old hunting haunts and spending money in the community while they are there.   Life would suffer for lots of folks.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not about to start a crusade suggesting hunters should go on strike just to prove a point.   Still, it remains an interesting concept in my mind how some classes of citizens will do just that to showcase some plight in their industry or workplace.   I have to believe if ever hunters chose to use that tactic OR if society mistakingly shuts down our beloved activities…there would eventually be a big price to pay by everyone.

When a hunter treks out into the field or woods to bag a pheasant, waylay a deer, or perhaps even to shoot a cunning canine…there is much more than just sport involved.   In some small way each hunter contributes by performing a very necessary population control function in our wild world.   As wild lands become more scarce with each passing year…and many animal populations continue on the rise…the hunter is society’s single most important resource to maintain some balance in our natural world.   Let there be no doubt about it without hunting we would all be paying a much higher price to exist—one way or another.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.