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DU, waterfowl groups help out the ducks

Both waterfowl habitat organizations, first Minnesota Waterfowls and then Ducks Unlimited, have staged their fundraising banquet dinners this month. It is heartening to see all of these enthusiasts get out to help the ducks. Their efforts in raising the funds necessary for habitat preservation is heartening indeed.

Many of the people are supporters of both organizations, and that is as it should be.

These men and their families will never see duck hunting as I saw it. I began in 1935, when the waterfowl limit had been dropped from the 18 per day down to the reduced limit of only 15 ducks.

1935 was also the first year of the Federal duck stamp. The first of these cost $1 and was sold by the U.S. Dept. of Interior. It appeared to be a novel idea, and it caught on with waterfowlers in a big way. In 1935, there were ducks in quantity, but they were beginning to dwindle. Of course, those numbers would be considered a bonanza today. I hunted with a man named Bob Esser and his father, Dr. Ben Esser, at lakes near Perham. The warden thereabouts was Leonard Berggren, and he came to our camp at Gourd Lake one day to show us a few pairs of adult mallard ducks which were alive, but could not stand up after he freed them from the gunny sack. Warden Berggren told us that these birds had eaten the lead shot we had spewed over the marsh with our toxic lead shells. It was my very first experience of the effect of toxic lead in waterfowl, and it was a forgotten subject until about 1978 when we were told of its effect and the necessity to change to steel and other non-toxic pellets.

In the 1930s when I?was a teenage boy, we did not take the legal limit of ducks that was available. No one needed or wanted that many ducks. There were very few geese taken in those days, and there was talk about the reduction of bag limits. This came about at the end of the decade, and into the years concluding WWII (1946) the limit was ten birds. And there was an increase in numbers, with the duck stamp costing $2 and hunters were buying them cheerfully.

Ducks Unlimited got started in 1937, organized by a few avid duck hunters in Chicago, but chapters were becoming active in other midwestern cities.

There were farm potholes in the prairie farm land in Ottertail County and we had ducks. The duck hunting in and around Detroit Lakes was next to fabulous, with premier clubs being organized in the lakes, which now comprise the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge. A writer named Jimmy Robinson, who was with Sports Afield Magazine lived in Perham, and I was hired to be the guide for parties of duck hunters that stayed at the Merchants Hotel in Perham. I was always able to guide them to Rush Lake, Little Pine, Gourd, Dear Lake, Marion and others in Ottertail County. These were wealthy businessmen who thought little of killing way more than the legal limit in those days. But there was little that a teenage boy could do about that. In those days, there were ducks beginning to reappear, but to the efforts of Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl and others, improving the waterfowl habitat on the prairies in the U.S.A., but chiefly in the lakes of Canada, where the major breeding areas were located.

Jimmy Robinson retreated to southern Manitoba and became a strong influence toward duck conservation, and Sports Afield Magazine built a small frame clubhouse with bunks for hunters, and there was strict adherence to the game laws. Jimmy Robinson became well known as an advocate at taking one duck less than the legal limit, and I can remember in the days when I was a guest hunter there, that the rule was enforced.

Today, we have fewer ducks, some of the decline coming because of the burgeoning human population using farm lands for housing developments and business expansion. The lands were disappearing at an alarming rate, but Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Minnesota Waterfowlers and other habitat protection groups were effectively collecting money from hunters and conservationists and waterfowl areas were restored.

Ducks Unlimited, today, has a big job still in front of it. Much has been done, but there's no reason to stop now. It was indeed gratifying to see so many local men, family groups too, supporting the efforts.

The clean water amendment

Next November's election ballot will feature an amendment towards providing $300 million a year for protection of our drinking water, our land and rivers. Your yes vote is needed for this.

It will cost you about 15 cents a day or about a dollar a week. In Minnesota, the only way to create a truly dedicated funding source is to amend the constitution. Voting yes for it in November would do this. We've taken our 10,000 lakes and our outdoor areas for granted for too long a time. For ourselves and for future generations, we should take the necessary action now, in 2008. More than 80 percent of the funding generated will go toward safe water. Their water supply is a great problem, right now, for a great many of America's cities where populations are high. They have problems today.

We have a chance, here in Minnesota to keep clean water from becoming a problem. This will be an issue for us to decide on this fall's ballot.

Aim a bit high

When the bullet leaves the muzzle of your deer rifle, it is already beginning to drop. The velocity created by the explosion of the powder and its energy propels the bullet on toward its target. But it is traveling in an arc, called its trajectory.

The killing zone of a whitetail buck is about one square foot. It is this boiler room, containing the heart and lungs that you're aiming for.

So the cure for the bullet's drop is to aim a bit higher. You must set your sights, either irons or a scope atop the rifle which will need to be adjusted to compensate for the lessening of the bullet's energy. The drop. You'll want to put your bullet at a higher point to get the desired effect. Shoot a group, perhaps three shots, using the same ammunition you intend to use in the game fields. Adjust the sights to place the impact of the bullets somewhat higher than your aiming point. It is easier to do than it is to write about.

A good way to get this annual task taken care of is to take the rifle, scope, and ammo out to the Becker County Sportsmen's Club's excellent range. Club members man the firing line for several weekends before deer season, and these members know what they're doing so it will get done correctly.

Do the shooting yourself. Nobody can do it exactly right for you. No one sees the sights exactly the same. Do not trust Old Betsy to be exactly right as she was when you took that nice deer last season with that one placed shot. Guard screws or scope mounts can change, so take nothing for granted.

Sighting in is one of the most important things needed in preparation of your success in the annual quest for a whitetail deer. Get it done properly, and as early as possible, and be ready for opening day this year.