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The biathlon combines cross-country skiing and shooting

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The biathlon combines cross-country skiing and shooting
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

The winter Olympics kick off this month at Vancouver, British Columbia. You'll see lots of downhill skiing, cross-country, too, along with luge and ice arena events. One that you are not likely to see is one of the most difficult. It is the biathlon, which combines precision rifle shooting and cross country skiing. It is an individual as well as a team competition. The U.S.A. has a very competent team that scored well four years ago in Turin, Italy.


At targets along the skiing course, a participant shucks the skis and shoots both standing and prone, proceeds to fire five rounds of 22 long rifle ammo at targets 50 meters away. The rifle weighs 7 3/4 pounds. Of course, the skiing is likely to wind a guy just a bit, and he must hold and squeeze off five shots, remount on the skis and proceed to the next target. It is indeed challenging. The rifles preferred are those made in Austria by the Anschutz Company or by Eberlestock, also of Austria. These are odd looking pistol gripped affairs, iron sights and they can cost up to $3,700 each.

The biathlon traces its history back to the 1800s when soldiers of the Scandinavian countries fought in the woods and mountains, using skis.

The biathlon came to the Olympics in 1960 at Squaw Valley, Calif. The U.S. teams haven't won any gold medals in the biathlon. Maybe this will be the year.

Uncased firearms in the truck

There has been a significant uptick in road hunting where uncased guns are allowed. It has been common for Minnesota's ruffed grouse hunters to take the birds along roadsides. It's a lot easier than plunging through the grown over tote roads left over from logging. It has produced a measure of success too, especially in the beginning of the season. In the Dakotas, it has long been the practice of transporting the shotgun uncased in the truck when traveling from one hunting tract to the next. But cruising down a secondary road awaiting a shot at grouse or deer, well, that's meat hunting, not exactly sporting. Often the distance from hunting spots is very short, and it is inconvenient to case up the gun for a very short time. If there is no shell in the chamber, both Dakotas permit uncased transport with the magazine containing ammunition. Fairly safe in the hands of alert sportsmen, who pay attention to what they're doing.

Discharging a firearm from a roadway continues to be illegal, yet it is common practice. The chances are few that you'll get caught in the far reaches of hunting country, in our vast national and state forests. Many Conservation Officers consider permitting uncased transport to be poorly considered legislative action.

Hot fishing action at Lake of the Woods

If you're willing to drive that extra mile, then Minnesota's side of Lake of the Woods on the International boundary is the place to go for some excellent fishing for walleyes, sauger, and perch. You can drive your pickup truck right up to the door of the cozy, fully equipped five to eight man sleeper fishing house. The roads are plowed; there's a 110-volt generator operating that provides heat and illumination. Most all of the comforts of home.

A number of resorts on the Minnesota side of the waters provide every service that a winter angler needs. The end result is a nice catch of good tasting walleyes that will be enjoyed by your family, when you get them home. Including bait and tackle, the accommodation runs about $225 per angler. You get three nights sleeping and two days of fishing.

If you prefer lakeshore accommodation, they're available too at a cost of about $75 weekends, cheaper in mid-week. It is winter fishing at its best.

Coyote hunting

Now that the holidays have passed to memory, and the initial excitement of local ice fishing has dimmed, many sportsmen are turning their attention to coyote hunting, both locally and over the state line into both Dakotas.

There are plenty of these critters about. Hides are being brought in every day to such dealers as Schaleben Furs. The lake and forest fringes in the Abbey Lake area south of Detroit Lakes has been a good area. Fields adjacent to County Highway 29 north from Frazee to Cotton Lake has been a pretty fair area and certainly is accessible.

Coyote hunting is a fine sport for guys who like modern firearms. The Remington .223 and the Winchester .243 are among the calibers in use, but any small centerfire will get the job done, with pleasure and satisfaction.

The electronic calls that imitate a rabbit in distress is always a successful lure, bringing a coyote into range. White camouflage is of course necessary in winter, and an amount of scouting for tracks will be necessary.

Most coyote hunters using the modernized electronic callers with the DVD will move on if a half hour's squealing rabbit isn't successful. Many hunters take three coyote in a day from several locations. It is a phase of hunting that fits in well between fall deer hunting and the beginning of spring panfish and walleye fishing.

Deer are enduring our winter

So far, Minnesota's winter hasn't been too bad on the deer. In the agricultural areas of the state, deep snow has covered food plots. Yes, we have had some -15° weather, but so far weather experts rate this as a mild winter. The forested areas where the deer are fewer, the snow hasn't been so deep so as to hamper deer. No large numbers of dogs chasing deer have surfaced. The State DNR relies on a weather severity index that couples temperature, snowfall, and general weather intensity. There have been some times of concern in the Park Rapids and Grand Rapids areas, but they were brief and are considerably less than last year. But mid February can be a difficult period and we're just coming into that.

Minnesota's winter weather is unpredictable, and we're not really out of danger until the first week in April. But so far, so good.