Boating Safety Begins On The Highway

Each time I hook a trailer up to my SUV I get a flashback to an incident that occurred about a dozen years ago. At the time, I was working for an ambulance service and on one particular sunny afternoon my partner and I responded to a trailer accident. A horrific accident, at that…one that left two people dead and another person seriously injured.

If there’s a side benefit to working in the emergency medical services field it’s that you get to learn from other people’s mistakes. You share, to some extent, the grieving family’s sorrow…but you also can sometimes find compassion for the individual who caused the situation. Bottom line is whenever a terrible accident occurs everyone seeks to find an explanation as to why the terrible event just happened.

IMG00164-20100320-1530To be fair, the trailer in my “flashback” was not a boat, in fact, it was a farm implement pulled in the very same manner. The coupling was via a ball-mounted trailer hitch but the system failed. Furthermore, the attachment mechanism was so old it did not contain the necessary safety chains required by Minnesota law to prevent total trailer detachment.

As a result, what once was a trailer suddenly became an uncontrolled projectile traveling at 55 mph on a two lane highway. Combine this with the fact a car traveling in the opposite direction at a similar speed and…well, do I really have to say anything more?

The main problem with pulling a trailer whether it be for a boat, camper, snowmobile or similar unit becomes user complacency. Let’s face it, making the connection between the trailer and your truck is not nearly as exciting as the unit being towed for the outdoor fun. And sure, while most of us ensure we have the correct ball size, lighting connection, etc. we don’t spend a great deal of time beyond that thinking about it. But perhaps we should.IMG_0338

In fact, can you answer these important questions about your trailer:

  • What is the trailer’s tongue weight (when fully loaded)?
  • How much does your trailer weigh (when fully loaded)?
  • What class of hitch does your tow vehicle contain? Is it sufficient for the trailer size being pulled?
  • Does your trailer require brakes and have they been maintained recently?
  • When was the last time you added grease to the wheel bearings?

The main point of all this is not to be a comprehensive dissertation on how to fulfill your due diligence for trailering safety when pulling one down the highway. Instead, with the fishing opener now just three weeks away and a busy summer upcoming, it’s just prudent to spend a little extra time right now checking over the components that so often get overlooked when lives are hurried.

I used to think trailer accidents were not that commonplace. Then about five years ago another incident occurred when someone driving by my house lost their construction trailer and it ended up in the ditch about 100 ft from my house.

The older a trailer becomes the more attention (and maintenance) it requires. Equipment wears out and will eventually break down. When we’re heading to the lake we don’t want to experience troubles. Quite often most trouble occurrences can be avoided long before heading out onto the highway.

Now when I connect my boat trailer to my truck I still think about those two young lives that were lost many years ago. The experience taught me that accidents do happen and can almost always be avoided by eliminating human negligence or error. It also causes me to double and triple check to make sure I have all the connections just right before any tires get rolling.

Pulling a trailer is an added responsibility and the safety element should not be taken for granted. Here’s hoping you have a fun, but safe upcoming boating hauling season.

Want to learn more about safe boat trailering?

Take Me FishingTM

© 2010 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

10 Questions Deer Hunters Should Ask Their Meat Processor

Okay, you’ve shot or arrowed that prized deer so now what do you do with it?   Even though many hunters are choosing to cut up and package their own meat these days, other hunters still prefer to pay having these services provided by a professional.   Certainly nothing wrong with that…but how does one know whether they’re getting the best value for their money along with wholesome food safety?

Remember, even the basic processing and packaging costs can run upwards of $100 per deer.   Tack on specialty processing like sausage making, curing or smoking and the final tally on the cash register could easily approach $300 for a large deer.   Here’s a list of some basic questions you might consider asking a meat processor before you engage their services this fall:

1. Is the facility registered by MN Dept of Ag?   Make sure the processor in which you’re dealing with abides by the meat handling rules set forth by the State of Minnesota.

2. When last was the processing facility inspected?  Keep in mind the Minnesota Dept. of Ag has a designation for meat processors called “Custom Exempt Meat Processor” which means less frequent sanitation inspections.   If the meat processor is not regularly selling over-the-counter meat to the public you might want to ask about when their facility was last inspected by the state.

3. What is your trimming policy around any wound channels?   Now with the recent concern regarding the potential for lead toxins due to bullet fragmentation, processors are being asked to be aggressive in cutting away damaged meat.   The processors make more money by the pound, but ensure you’re getting the safe meat you want by discussing this concern.

4. Will my meat be commingled with venison from other hunters?   Quite often it is because to make it worthwhile to do a batch of sausage, bologna, etc. it typically requires some volume.   If this practice concerns you, now is the time to discuss it with the meat processor to discover any alternatives that may be available.

5. Are grinders being regularly checked for lead fragments and cleaned?   Impress upon your meat processor the importance of thoroughly cleaning equipment before any of your venison is ground.   It should be done this way between customers, anyway.

6. How is the meat packaged?   Explain how many servings per package is ideal for your family.   Also, if the meat will likely be in the freezer for some time, consider paying a bit extra to get all cuts double-wrapped to further prevent freezer burn.

7. When will the cutting occur?   Unlike beef, most venison is not purposefully aged before processing.   Asking this question is more about learning how busy the processor is and discovering how the meat will be stored in the meantime.

8. How soon will the meat need to be picked up?   Are there storage fees?   Good questions to ask for schedule planning.

9. Can I see a price list?   Can you estimate the final cost?   Always request a price list.   Knowing in advance what your total costs could amount to will help avoid any “sticker shock” situations.   It also helps for family budgeting just to know in advance.

10. Is there a money back guarantee for processed venison items?   A good processor will have samples for tasting when you bring in your deer to write up the order.   The expectation is for your meat to taste similar to those samples.   If that situation doesn’t occur and you discover the meat to be rather unpalatable, what recourse will you have?

Now, granted some of these questions might hint as though you’re questioning the meat processor’s integrity.   Well, my experience has been that a reputable and responsible professional will gladly answer any concerns you might have about their food handling practices.   After all, the service they are providing can ultimately concern the health and well-being of your family and your friends.

As a final note, several meat processors are again this year accepting donations under the Minnesota Venison Donation Program sponsored by the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, the Minnesota DNR, and the Minnesota Department of Ag.   If you have quality, wholesome venison to donate…please consider this worthwhile program that helps fill area food shelves.

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

No Joking: Raccoon Excrement Should Be No Laughing Matter

Deer hunters, in particular, know how raccoons can be famous for leaving their “calling cards” behind in some peculiar places.   In fact, on my property I have several permanent tree stands that seem to quite regularly attract these little masked bandits with their telltale mess of leaving fecal matter behind.   Let’s face it…it’s gross, it’s an inconvenience at best…but long ago I’ve concluded it’s the price a deer hunter using a tree stand must occasionally pay to interact out-of-doors with nature.

Ah, but not so fast.   Up until recently I always considered the presence of raccoon poop (OK, there I finally said it) to be fairly benign and certainly not hazardous in any way.   Turns out I was quite wrong.

What I discovered was that raccoon feces have been known to harbor microscopic eggs from an intestinal parasite commonly known as raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis).   These parasites release millions of eggs that are then passed in the infected raccoon’s fecal matter.   After two to four weeks under the right conditions, the fecal eggs can become infective to other animals, including humans thru direct contact (primarily ingestion).   Worse yet, these eggs have been known to thrive and remain infective within contaminated soil up to several years later.IMG5__00360

Last October a small child from upstate New York was infected by raccoon roundworm and developed severe neurological problems resulting in permanent brain damage.   Earlier this year a teenager, also from New York, suffered effects from raccoon roundworm causing blindness in one eye.   According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), reports of this emerging threat first date back to 1984 when a 10–month old child eventually died.   Reports further indicate that as many as 30 medical cases have been reported over the years with 4 documented deaths directly related to raccoon roundworm.

OK, before I get you too worked up about this medical condition let’s put things in proper perspective.   First, raccoon roundworm primarily impacts children to a much greater extent than adults.   The main reason is kids are more apt to put things in their mouths and generally don’t appreciate the concept of hand washing the same way most of us adults do.

Moreover, not all raccoons are host to the parasite, yet a high percentage of the population does seem to be positive carriers.   And while human infection with raccoon roundworm does not appear to be a widespread problem, it’s certainly prudent to have a fundamental understanding that the disease threat exists — particularly to hunters and trappers.

So, the next time you discover a rebel raccoon has turned your tree stand (or perhaps even some outdoor building) into a latrine…think twice about the little gift it left behind.   It may seem weather-beaten, old and otherwise harmless…but now you certainly should know better.

The bottom line is nature can pass along several nasty diseases to us outdoors folks via different routes of exposure.   Most of us are familiar with disease transmission through direct contact, such as with an animal bite.   Yet, many sportsmen fail to recognize how what seems like an inconsequential exposure(contact with feces) can have a threat lingering for weeks, months or even years later.

When I chose to write this blog posting I figured the subject matter would generate a few chuckles from readers…and that’s perfectly fine with me.   Yet, I somehow suspect from now on you’ll view raccoon droppings in a much more enlightened way.   Come this fall, I know I sure will when deer hunting from up in a tree.

For additional readings on this topic:

Baylisascaris procyonis: An Emerging Helminthic Zoonosis
Raccoon Roundworm Infection Fact Sheet
MN DNR: Living With Wildlife – Raccoons
Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services — Fact Sheet

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