Appreciating Their Courage Behind The Badge

Thanksgiving is a great time to annually reflect upon the many things in life for which one has to be appreciative.   Good health, decent job, food on the table…all important elements of life many people take for granted during day to day living.

Same goes for our outdoors lifestyle.   Far too often we neglect to show proper appreciation to the corps of deserving individuals who make our outdoors world a better place.   For without them, it would surely be a much more chaotic existence filled with rampant abuse and blatant resource corruption.

Of course, I’m talking about the 190 Minnesota Conservation Officers who patrol our fields, forests and waters to make sure everyone plays by the rules and enjoys an equal opportunity under Minnesota state law.   This Thanksgiving holiday season I feel it only appropriate to tip my hat to the expert service they each provide in all corners of our great state.

SLD_136I honestly believe most sportsmen really don’t have a full understanding for the job these fine men and women do to protect our outdoors.   They work some of the strangest hours, they patrol some of the most backwoods areas to be found, they often are outnumbered by individuals carrying guns, and most often they perform their challenging duties working all alone.

And the typical Minnesota Conservation Officer does much more than write tickets for fish or game law violations.   They also perform duties relating to wetlands use/restoration, recreational vehicle operation, help enforce MN State Park rules, deal with animal complaints, the list goes on and on (more can be read HERE).   In essence, the Minnesota Conservation Officer is the eyes and ears for the DNR and serves as the most visible contact person for the agency.

When I read how Minnesota CO’s have apprehended a wildlife poacher or busted individuals illegally harvesting an overabundance of fish, I rejoice in their accomplishment.   After all, they’re helping to protect a valuable resource that belongs to all of us.

I’d like to share a quick story about an incident that happened back during the firearms deer hunting opener in 1986.   I was doing a ride-along with Conservation Officer Greg Turner who was then stationed out of Red Wing.   It was a typical opening day with lots of contact with deer hunters, when suddenly things got a bit more exciting.

We were traveling on a one-lane “goat path” in the hilly Red Wing area when we encountered a pick-up truck with three individuals.   CO Turner recognized the on-coming truck and motioned them to stop.   Instead, they sped up trying to get past us side-swiping the CO’s truck as they moved by.

Without hesitation CO Turner exited his enforcement vehicle and latched on to their tailgate, eventually climbing into the get-away truck.   As a wide-eyed young outdoors writer, I turned in amazement as I watched the CO go for a ride around a corner and eventually out of sight.

I sat there in the CO’s truck awestruck by the action-packed, Hollywood movie-like drama that just occurred.   Minutes seemed like hours as I wondered just how this extraordinary scene would eventually play out.   After several minutes, I gathered my courage and walked back to the corner where I seen CO Turner go out-of-sight with the soon-to-be-charged felons.   There, about 75 yards further down the road, I saw the Minnesota Conservation Officer holding three suspects on the ground, in a prone position, at gun point.

They were ready to take the Conservation Officer on a joy ride until the fun quickly stopped when the officer’s gun got drawn.

As if my heart wasn’t already beating fast enough, CO Turner upon seeing me motioned me to come over to assist him.   Wearing blaze orange, the suspects had no way of understanding I was just an outdoors writer and not another officer that day.   For all they knew CO Turner had backup and their fun had come to an abrupt end.

Indeed, I’ll never forget that day.   As things turned out, one of the apprehended suspects was on probation from prison and was in possession of several AR-type weapons with suppressors (this in a shotgun only deer hunting zone).   Numerous charges were filed, including fleeing from an officer.

The bottom line is Minnesota’s Conservation Officer corps are a true bunch of unsung heroes protecting our natural resources.   When it comes to law enforcement activities in Minnesota, they are the crème de la crème of all law officers performing an incredibly tough job with great success.

Certainly we don’t often hear about their day to day achievements, yet we know the difficult tasks they are entrusted with carries an awesome individual responsibility.   Indeed, on this weekend when we symbolically eat turkey and give thanks in our lives for many things — I want to pay thanks to our Minnesota Conservation Officers for their part in protecting and preserving an outdoors lifestyle that’s very important to me.

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

Trophy buck illegally shot in Goodhue County

NEWS RELEASE (MN DNR): For Immediate Release
State conservation officers recently seized a record-book deer rack and filed poaching charges against a Cannon Falls man.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources investigation stemmed from an incident where three deer, including a trophy 8-point buck were killed by archery in three separate incidents near Cannon Falls in October.

According to the complaint, Troy Alan Reinke, 32, admitted to conservation officers that he had shot a small doe and a small buck on separate dates in early October, and failed to tag or register either of the deer. Reinke said he shot the large 8-point buck, with a 185 green score, on Halloween evening. A green score is an unofficial score to rate deer antlers (inches of length).

Conservation officers seized a bow, two deer racks, the meat from the three deer, and the hide from the large buck as part of their investigation. 

Restitution for the small buck and doe is $500 each. Restitution for the trophy buck is $1,000.

Reinke also faces other fines and court costs, and could have his hunting privileges revoked for three years if convicted. A trial date has not been set.

Anyone witnessing wildlife or fishing code violations is encouraged to contact the nearest conservation officer, law enforcement agency or the toll-free Turn-In-Poacher (TIP) hotline at 800-652-9093. Also, #TIP is available to most cell phone users in Minnesota.

People should contact the Minnesota State Patrol or a DNR regional or area office for the name and phone number of a conservation officer in their area.
(Click on picture to enlarge)            MN DNR Photo Provided.
©2009 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Discovering The Unusual In The Out-of-doors

Spend enough time outdoors and you’re apt to experience some strange encounters.   Take, for instance, my friend, Mitch, who several years back was doing a little fishing on a rural stream when something soon caught his eye in the river.   Nope, it wasn’t the flash of a large fish.   In fact, it turned out to be a cash register tossed from a bridge and now laying submerged in the river bed below.

Many years ago I pulled into a field approach preparing to do some pheasant hunting and again, something out-of-the-ordinary happened to catch my attention.   There, laying in the ditch, partially obscured by tall grass was a red purse.   I approached it cautiously because my mind couldn’t comprehend a plausible reason why it would be there — except for possibly a crime.   As soon as I finished pheasant hunting, I quickly went home and called the sheriff explaining my unusual discovery.

Another friend, while scouting some new territory for deer, happened on a site where a group of “dopers” had obviously been partying quite recently.   Ashes from a campfire remained along with drug paraphernalia was scattered throughout the area.   It appeared almost as if the party-goers got scared off without bothering to ever come back.   Again, concerned these items could wind up once again in the wrong hands…the police were called.

Just last week reported on an incident at the Sherburne wildlife refuge where a person out walking had located a stash of 60 marijuana plants growing.   He subsequently tipped off the authorities so an arrest could be made.   Again, someone stumbled upon something unusual and did their part to become a “crime buster.”

IMG_0419Two weeks ago I allowed my farm to be a training site for various SWAT teams from four different counties in southern Minnesota as they simulated a meth lab bust out in my woods.   As an observer watching the scenario unfold, it was a vivid reminder of the unsuspecting dangers that sometimes lurk in the out-of-doors.   Our law enforcement officials practice and prepare for it, are you ready for such a possible encounter?

Let’s face it, when you go out for some Sunday afternoon squirrel hunting you don’t expect to encounter dangerous criminals cooking meth — but it happens.   The Minnesota DNR even warns outdoor enthusiasts of this potential danger on their website.   Check out the precautionary notice HERE.

The point is there’s a lot of land in Minnesota that hasn’t recently been traipsed on since probably late last fall.   When situations occur, Minnesota hunters can become the eyes and ears to aid our law enforcement agencies in doing their difficult job.   It happens all the time.   Sooner or later it could happen to you.

Moreover, it’s also important to appreciate that criminal activities, such as meth labs, can pose a definite danger as these individuals don’t usually act very rational.   Trust your gut feeling…if a situation just doesn’t seem right get out of the area and report your suspicions to the authorities.

As luck would have it, a person just never knows what type of unusual situation one might encounter when recreating outdoors.   Still, it’s prudent to be somewhat mentally prepared to know how you might want to react when the discovery you just made doesn’t seem to be right.

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