Be Careful You’re Not Stepping Into Trouble

I think most of us would agree there is no room in the sporting world for folks mixing drugs with carrying guns.   It’s a bad combination no matter how you look at it.   But how aware are you of possibly walking up on a meth lab the next time you take to the woods?   Worse yet, would you even recognize the potential signs and dangers associated with such an illegal operation?

Fact is, the production of methamphetamine is a growing law enforcement concern nationwide.   Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it couldn’t or isn’t being produced where you live and hunt.   Chances are you would be terribly wrong and and being ignorant of this insidious drug crisis could mean some dire consequences for your health and well-being.

Having worked in the emergency medical field for several years I do have some first-hand knowledge of the prevalence of these drugs.   I also have worked closely with law enforcement officials who must deal with the problems created by these substances on almost a daily basis.   The problem is real…and it behooves ALL sportsmen to have at the very least a fundamental understanding of the dangers and the threat.

Just last Thursday I was driving home from a trip to my local Cabela’s when I decided to go on some back roads that are not frequently traveled.   As I was driving I glanced way up in the distance and I saw a glint of flashing emergency lights.   My first impression was…oh great!   I suppose there’s been an accident and I can’t get through now on the roadway.   As I approached I could see the commotion was not confined to the road…rather, it was at a farmhouse near the road that was encircled with yellow crime scene tape.   Immediately I concluded this can’t be good…I wonder if there possibly has been a murder or something?

As I slowly inched past the area around what I first thought was a rescue truck parked on the road…I glanced up and noticed this truck said Bloomington Bomb Squad.   YIKES!!!   What the hell was I doing anywhere close to a scene that would involve a bomb squad??!!   I quickly accelerated past the area wondering later if the law officers might have wondered why my truck sped from the area.

Actually, that bomb squad truck answered my questions…there likely was no murder at this house.   Nope, it was the scene of a drug bust that involved a methamphetamine lab.   You see, the chemicals and the process for “cooking” or reducing down the drug is so dangerous that even the sheriff’s department relies on professionals experienced with deadly explosives.   Consider this…what would happen if you and your hunting partners entered a woodlot and unknowingly walked into such an operation?   Fact is, a meth lab can exist virtually anywhere and everywhere.   They don’t have to be confined to a home or a building…and often times these labs are found in a remote wooded area where the criminals who have set up the site may also have “booby-trapped” the area to cause harm to any intruder.

So yes, if you want to consider yourself a savvy sportsman who is aware and on the look-out for dangers…you now must be observant for the tell-tale signs of meth production.   Here’s a synopsis of what danger signs to watch for when taking to the woods:

Used as designed, these household products are generally safe.  Mixed together, they can become explosive and/or give off toxic fumes.


  • Acetone
  • Alcohol (isopropyl or rubbing)
  • Common cold pills containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine
  • Drain cleaner (sulfuric acid)
  • Engine starter (ether)
  • Iodine
  • Heet/gasoline additives (methanol/alcohol)
  • Lithium batteries
  • Matches (red phosphorous)
  • Muriatic acid
  • Anhydrous ammonia
  • Red Devil lye
  • Salt (table or rock)
  • Sodium metal
  • Trichloroethane (gun cleaning solvent)
  • Toluene


    • Aluminum foil
    • Blender
    • Bottles
    • Cheesecloth
    • Coffee filters
    • Funnels
    • Gas can
    • Hot plate
    • Jugs
    • Paper towels
    • Propane tank/thermos
    • Pyrex dishes
    • Rubber gloves/tubing
    • Strainer
    • Tape/clamps
    • Thermometer

Also keep in mind that the people who manufacture these drugs also have a big investment in the operation.   These are folks who have proven they would risk their lives to either continue their habit and/or sell these highly addictive drugs.   Don’t lose sight of the fact that methamphetamine is one nasty drug that will often kill the serious user within five years.   These folks will act irrational and truthfully have little to lose in life.   If an unwitting sportsman happens to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time the trouble could escalate quickly.

If you suspect you have seen signs of a potential meth lab…get out of the area quickly!!   Don’t touch anything as it could explode.   And above all…carefully retrace your steps realizing that the area could be rigged to cause you harm.   Finally, immediately call local law enforcement officials or the conservation officer for the area to disclose your concern.   The best way to put these operations out of business is for law officers to deal with the dangers and the criminals.

Personally, I can’t emphasize enough that sportsmen need to understand that methamphetamine is not your ordinary recreational drug…unlike marijuana or even cocaine.   Meth kills, ruins families…and can quickly ruin your day, too, if you don’t accept the fact it can be found anywhere in your travels.   Last Thursday I was shocked to see the sights at that farmstead…especially since I’ve driven by the house dozens of times in recent months.   It did, however, reinforce in my mind that we live in a different world where dangers are ever-present and need to be better understood by all of us.

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

Injured Deer Gets Ride From Good Samaritan

Here’s the deal…let’s assume you are driving home early some morning…oh, about 3am or so, and suddenly out of nowhere a deer bolts in front of your vehicle and you hit it.   Damn!   For most of us our first concern is likely the extent of damage done done to the vehicle.   Of course, as compassionate adults, if the deer is still alive you most certainly will have some concern for the critter who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, at least as far as you are concerned.

But that’s not what happened a few days ago near Foley, Minnesota.   No, instead April Weiser hit a deer with her car and that’s when the compassionate nature of this veterinary technician took over.   Rather than let the animal die in the ditch, she hoisted its 90–pound body into the back seat of her auto and sped off for help.   She drove 80 miles with a roommate, Tara Miller, to the Twin Cities to take the injured deer to the Wildlife Rehababilitation Center in Roseville.   Even though the report did not state for certain, it appears likely that by now the extent of the deer’s injuries would require the deer to be euthanized.

Okay, before we go on with this story let’s examine it from a sportsman’s perspective.   In Minnesota, as well as in many other states I suspect, it is illegal to terminate the life of an injured deer unless you are licensed and it is during deer hunting season.   That means that if you hit a deer with your truck and it is still in the ditch kicking…you had best call for a law enforcement officer to handle the matter.   Even if you have the capability to end the deer’s life and suffering…you could be ticketed for taking such action.   In fact, it is my understanding that more than likely if a conservation officer gets involved you will be ticketed if those actions were taken without law enforcement involvement.

Of course, Ms Weiser wasn’t looking to do the logical thing…instead, her do-good mentality kicked in and she acted in the “compassionate” way.   She was labeled by the wildlife officer as a “good Samaritan” despite the fact her response actually broke Minnesota law.

‘Technically, the women broke the law by transporting a wild animal without permission of the Department of Natural Resources or other law enforcement.

But neither Weiser nor Miller knew that, and nobody told them otherwise.

A DNR officer said Thursday the women won’t be charged.

“They are good Samaritans, they did a good thing,” said Major Jeff Thielen of the DNR. “But it’s illegal to move ’em. And it’s better to leave ’em. It’s just probably safer and better.”

Hmm…   Now I find this quite interesting.   What these ladies did was clearly a violation of Minnesota law…yet, because they were “good Samaritans” no charges will be filed.   And why?   Because NOBODY TOLD THEM OTHERWISE.   They were ignorant of the law that required them NOT to transport wildlife without permission.   They did a good and thing…went to extremes in doing what they thought was right…so we [DNR] will look the other way this time and publicize it so everybody learns from their mistaken judgment.

Quite frankly I’m troubled by this story on many levels.   First is the fact that the Minnesota DNR won’t charge these ladies for their actions.   Sportsmen have been told repeatedly that we must be thoroughly familiar with the law because ignorance is no excuse.   So, is the DNR holding a hunting licensed-carrying sportsman to a higher standard than an naive person motivated merely by good intentions?   Furthermore, what makes her actions of doing what she thinks is best any different than if a sportsman pulled a gun out of the trunk and quickly ended the deer’s misery?   Both actions are clearly wrong and a violation of law…but I suspect that the DNR would handle the two scenarios much differently.

I’m disappointed with officials with the Minnesota DNR for making any distinctions in their interpretation.   Quite honestly, a wildlife officer is expected to uphold the law (or the administrative rule) the very way it appears on the books.   The legislature makes the laws…law enforcement carries out the enforcement activities of those laws…and the courts make any interpretations of whether it is appropriate or not.   When wildlife officers start making actions that can cause the public to question the fairness in which they carry out their responsibilities…then I believe they are venturing down a very slippery slope, so to speak.

On a different level, perhaps a better example would have been made if charges were filed for the violation.   Let’s face it, the ridiculousness of having an injured deer in the back seat of a car traveling down the highway is totally insane.   What if that deer suddenly had a burst of energy and went berserk thrashing around while these ladies were traveling down the highway to the Twin Cities?   It certainly could have happened…and those actions then could have jeopardized lives beyond the deer’s alone if an accident would have resulted.

When people violate the law…irrespective of whether their intentions were good or bad…they need to answer to their actions if they were not appropriate.   The Minnesota DNR has now set precedent by forgiving the stunt of a pair of do-gooders who were merely ignorant of the law.   In the process, they have also all but proven to us sportsmen that if we went to such extremes involved with a similar scenario…the same blind eye would likely not be turned.   Personally, I’m disappointed because I would have expected better decisions from this agency.

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

Publicly Promoting Your Outdoor Passion

A few days ago I got one of those cutesy e-mails from a friend with all sorts of funny pictures attached.   You’ve heard the old statement, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”   In this case two of the pictures spoke quite loudly to me as they were pictures of mailboxes obviously used by sportsmen.   I have no idea who took the pictures or where the mailboxes are located, but I figured they were worth passing along for a few smiles.


When it comes to promoting our passions I suppose there are two schools of thought.   On one hand there is they guy or gal who leaves no doubt about the fact they enjoy the outdoors.   It might be a mailbox (such as the ones shown) very conspicuous at the end of the driveway or it can be a more subtle indication elsewhere in the yard – such as an archery target, a camouflaged four-wheeler, a boat, or some other “tool of the trade” for the sportsmen.
On the other hand there is quite an opposite school of thought.   This sportsman may be very proud of his outdoor passion, but they won’t put it on public display.   Why?   Some folks believe that to promote you’re a sportsman is to only invite trouble in the form of thievery.   I know of a few sportsmen who are so paranoid (?) or should I call it careful that they will actually cut the mailing labels off their hunting and fishing magazines before they go to the recycler.   To these folks parking a boat in the front yard is akin to showing your hand in a poker game.   It’s nobody else’s business as to what other valuable equipment might be hidden inside the home or the garage.

For several years I, too, have struggled with how I hold myself open to the public.   Even though I am very proud of my sportsman heritage and want to show off this pride…I don’t want to be foolhardy, either, and dangle some carrots in front of would-be thieves.   My guns, my fishing equipment, everything I own that is used to enjoy the outdoors has some very personal value to me…or else I wouldn’t keep it.

I’ve tried to strike a balance between letting the public know I am a sportsman and trying to keep some of my toys secure and hidden.   Obviously when you blog about the outdoors it is not much different than having a mailbox at the end of your driveway in the shape of a pistol.   Your privacy is a bit more open to the public.

Yet, as sportsmen we owe it to ourselves to keep our equipment secure – not only for security reasons but also for safety sake.   One of the best things you can do is invite a police officer over to your home for an evaluation.   Maybe it’s a friend whose off-duty or maybe you have contacted your local sheriff’s office for a home crime prevention inspection.   You’d be amazed at some of the little things you can do to foil a burglar.   These professionals know how thieves work and think…and if you property is important to you they can lend some great suggestions to lessen your chance of being so vulnerable.

There’s really no reason that as sportsmen we need to be so secretive about our passions.   Put them on public display in some fashion and celebrate them.   Whether you hunt, fish or camp there’s a certain pride that goes along with pursuing those pastimes that should not be stifled because of some potential fear.   I want people to know that a sportsman lives at my residence; I just don’t want to do it foolishly so some other guy thinks he might enjoy using my equipment or outdoor toys more then me.

© 2005 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.