Childhood hunting experiences create lasting memories

September 22, 2008

by Chris Schultz

From Tom Conroy of the DNR

They seemed to be everywhere. Ducks on the wing.

Some appeared as but specks, high above. Others were trading back and forth, low on the water. In between, more ducks.

I was a young boy on his first duck hunt as I witnessed this spectacle many years ago. On that day, something in me changed forever.

It was mid-morning on a late 1950s waterfowl opener in Le Sueur County, the first time I was allowed to join Dad and his cronies on a duck hunt. That I was not yet allowed to carry a gun didn’t much matter. I was thrilled just to be there.

The small lake we would hunt was less than 30 minutes from home. After exiting a gravel road, Dad and I traveled slowly down a field road, passed through a fence gate, and then bounced across a pasture toward a shaded hillside.

Dad’s hunting buddies, including one of his brothers, were already parked at the top of the hill when we arrived.

As the men unloaded gear, ate sandwiches, and talked and laughed about who knows what, I walked partway down the hillside toward the lake.

I stood, mesmerized, beneath the oak and maple trees and stared at the spectacle before me.

Ducks, everywhere, it seemed.

At the appointed time, two of the men headed across the lake in an oar boat. Dad and I walked into the cattails together while two others found their places farther down the shore.

When the shooting began, a phantasmagorical new world burst open around me.

The sights and sounds, the acrid, intoxicating smell of spent paper shotgun shells, the pungent scent of marsh muck – all strangely new and wonderful. And addictive.

Pleasant youthful memories resist the dust of time. Even in old age they continue to gleam, allowing us to see ourselves once again as young boys and girls – gorging on watermelon on a hot summer day, wading a lakeshore looking for shells, frolicking on the grass with that lovable mutt we thought would, like us, never grow old.

For so many of us, fond memories of our youth are inextricably linked to outdoor experiences.

Hunting, hiking, camping and fishing with moms and dads, aunts, uncles and grandparents are among our fondest recollections.

Though we grow older and begin to pursue our outdoor passions with others our own age, we never forget those who first introduced us to the amazing discoveries to be found in nature. And if we’re lucky, we’ll find a way to repay the favor.

As an adult, I was fortunate to be able to do that with Dad. Although he was restricted in what he could do due to a bullet to the knee during WWII, we managed to enjoy a number of deer and pheasant hunts and fishing trips together.

But then, at the relatively young age of 66, he unexpectedly died.

The future suddenly seemed less certain and the memories he had given me took on a new significance.

Not long after Dad’s passing, I happened to move to the town where the uncle who had been along on my inaugural duck hunt lived.

After years of only happenstance encounters at weddings, funerals and occasional family gatherings, we began to connect on a more regular basis.

It was then that I learned that in his younger days he had shared a hunting shack with a few buddies on the same lake where several friends and I now had a cabin.

It had been years, he said, since he had hunted ducks from a boat. He no longer felt as steady on his feet as he once did, he explained, and so he reluctantly decided he should give it up. I thought otherwise.

My boat, I argued, was sufficiently wide and stable enough to meet his needs. I eventually talked him into joining me for a duck hunt.

And so, on an overcast but mild afternoon, the two of us set off on the lake where both he and I had shared so many grand times – decades apart – with hunting friends.

As we sat in the boat and my uncle reminisced about the past, I became once again the small boy standing in the cattails behind my Dad.

Just down the shoreline I could see another young man, my uncle.

Although we never shot a duck that day, our afternoon in the boat together remains a special memory.

And I think my uncle would have been pleased to know that I talked about it during the eulogy I gave at his funeral that took place much too soon after that special hunt.

Earlier this year, the father of one of my DNR co-workers passed away.

In the Guest Book, a nephew wrote about the time this man, his uncle, took him on an early morning fishing trip.

The man dearly wanted his 11-year old nephew to catch a big bass and, to improve the odds, he lent the boy his favorite lure – a wooden frog.

In no time, the boy tied into a “big lunker.” The fish, however, broke the line and the wooden frog was lost.

“Uncle G was so good natured about the loss of both the fish and his lure,” the nephew wrote. “While he teased me about losing the fish, there was never a mention about the lure. He was truly a kind man and a true sportsman. I will miss him greatly.”

Minnesota’s fall fishing season is just beginning. And the major hunting seasons are right around the corner. Time to make memories. With someone young, perhaps. Or someone older. Both would be even better.

Waverly Gun Club events coming up

The Waverly Gun Club will host a concealed carry class Monday, Oct. 20 and Tuesday, Oct. 21

For more information on the class, contact Les Johnson at (763) 675-3527.

Meanwhile, the doubles league will begin Thursday, Oct. 2 and continue Oct. 9, 16, and 23.

For more information about the club, call the office at (763) 658-4644, or visit the web site at www.waverlygunclub.org.

Hunter green – the people behind the conservation success story
By Steve Sanetti, first ran in the Washington Post

Today’s green movement uses certain buzzwords – organic, locavore, renewable – to the wry amusement of 15 million to 20 million of us who’ve actually lived the eco-friendly lifestyle that these words describe.

We are hunters.

As a subset of America, we’re admittedly somewhat smaller than we used to be. Our numbers have been steadily pressed beneath a culture growing ever faster, more complex and distant from its rural ancestry.

Now, like growing vegetables, gathering fresh eggs and raising farm animals for the table, the proclivity and skill to harvest Earth’s bounty of wild game – and to pass on this tradition to those longing for simpler ways of life – reside in only a relative few of us.

The meats that hunters and their families consume are grown unfettered by hormones, processed feeds or fences. Low in fat and cholesterol, high in protein, wild game is organic defined.

The American Heart Association and American Cancer Society recommend venison, rabbit, pheasant and duck over many commercially produced, packaged and distributed alternatives.

Data gathered by my organization show that 84 percent of us hunt exclusively in our home states.

Only 5 percent never hunt locally.

Compared with consumers of U.S. supermarket food, which routinely travels as much as 2,500 miles from source to table, we are model locavores.

But “renewable” is perhaps where hunters shine greenest.

Today, every state has thriving game populations in habitats that sustain hunted as well as non-hunted species. It’s a richness of life that many Americans enjoy regardless of their environmental persuasion.

Yet most also take it for granted, unaware of the mechanisms that sustain this public resource. They see more wildlife every year but are oblivious to why that’s so.

Begun well over a century ago, the success of modern conservation can only be fully understood against the backdrop of historical slaughter for markets that took 40 million buffalo to the brink of extinction and 5 billion passenger pigeons beyond it.

It was hunters who led a revolution of new values, new science and new approaches for responsible use of these resources.

Seasons, game limits and wildlife conservation funds all came from hunters, and we are immensely proud of that effort.

Because of us, white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, elk, wild turkeys, wood ducks and hundreds of other cherished life forms transitioned from vanishing to flourishing.

Even in today’s renaissance of eco-consciousness, we remain the most stalwart supporters of wild things.

Hunters and sport-shooters now pay for more than 80 percent of all conservation and habitat programs in America.

Through licenses, tags, permits, fees and special excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, bows and arrows, we’ve paid – and state fish and game agencies have successfully plied – more than $5.3 billion since 1939. And we pushed for this tax on ourselves. No conservation system has accomplished more.

As the cost of conservation rises, we’re upping our outlays even as we remain a relatively small percentage of the population.

In fact, our data show that the price of hunting licenses is outpacing the rate of inflation by more than 30 percent. Each year America’s hunters contribute more for wildlife.

Taxing hunters to fund the health of public wildlife is a proud part of our heritage.

In tomorrow’s world, however, this financing may be merely the second-best byproduct of what we do.

As civilization struggles to balance modern lifestyles with organic, local, renewable resources, hunters are indeed among the deepest wells of expertise on the planet.

Our very identity clings steadfastly to stewardship of land, clean water and air, intimate knowledge of natural communities, and careful interaction with the good earth – because that’s how we’ve ensured abundant wildlife and good hunting for more than 100 years.

For us, the amusing irony is that American society, which has looked down its nose at hunters more sternly with each passing generation, is discovering that camouflage has been a primary shade of green all along.

Steve Sanetti is president and chief executive of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association based in Connecticut.

Previously he was an executive and general counsel for the firearms manufacturer Sturm, Ruger and Co.

Watershed tour is set for Thursday, Oct. 2
From the CROW

The Crow River Organization of Water (CROW) will be hosting a watershed bus tour Thursday, Oct. 2.

The tour will showcase water quality improvement projects funded in the Buffalo Creek Watershed management area through the CROW’s 319 grant, as well as projects completed by the Buffalo Creek Watershed District, City of Hutchinson, and Prairie Country RC&C.

The tour will start at 9:30 a.m., after the regular joint powers board meeting, and is expected to be over at 1:30 p.m.

Contact Dan Nadeau at (763) 682-1933 ext. 122. Space is limited to 45 participants.

5th annual Crow River Clean up day a success
From the CROW

The 5th annual Crow River clean up day took place on a rainy Sept. 13.

The rain did not stop over 300 citiziens from 18 communities across the Crow River Watershed from removing garbage and debris from the banks of the Crow River and its tributaries.

In total, the clean up resulted in the removal of over 5.3 tons of trash from over 30 miles of shoreline.

Items found during the clean up include: three kids hard plastic swimming pools, large pile of plastic twine, old style push mower blades, boat seats, retrieving dummy, hot water heater, bed spring, wash tub, fishing poles, tractor seat, lawn tractor hood, rubber raft, outdoor furniture, folding chairs, bicycle, 50 gallon barrels, kittly litter pails full of used litter, washing machine, computer monitors, 5 gallons of used paint, milk cans, grill, Styrofoam, clothing, shopping carts, stop sign, road signs, fence posts, milke crate, running board from a truck, snow shovels, spade, car battery, crap meteal, empty drum of zirconium carbonate paste, V6 motor, crib, outboard motor, washing machine tub, countertop, lawn chairs, fire extinguisher, bag of diapers, rubber ducky #214 from the past Hanover Harvest Festival, and literally a ton of glass and plastic bottles and fast food wrappers.

This event would not have been possible without the help and support from 55 local organizations and businesses.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Now that the fall migration has already started for some birds, when is the best time to stop feeding hummingbirds.

If a nectar feeder (sugar water) is available, will they fail to migrate to their wintering sites?

A: Hummingbird migration is triggered by the photoperiod, or the number of daylight hours, not by the availability of food.

Many people fear that hummingbirds will fail to migrate south if feeders are left out in the fall. This is not true.

Hummingbirds will migrate when it’s time to go, regardless of the presence or absence of feeders.

Fall is a great time to feed birds, if you know how to attract migratory birds in addition to the permanent residents that visit your feeders year-round.

The best way to feed birds is to adjust the food and feeders with each changing season.

To get the latest tips on fall bird feeding, check out the DNR’s Web site at www.mndnr.gov, or obtain a copy of “Wild About Birds: The DNR Bird-Feeding Book,” which is available through the Minnesota Bookstore www.comm.media.state.mn.us/bookstore/bookstore.asp.