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Becker County Sportsman- Do you choose the 'ominous black' guns?

"They are the guns of terrorists!" So said Jim Zumbo, until very recently, the firearms editor for Outdoor Life Magazine. Zumbo was very soon fired from his post after he criticized the black, ominous guns that are similar in design, shape, and function of fully automatic weapons.

The assault rifle styled guns are the mainstays of the military, but may also be carried in police cruisers in some of the more common shootout cities in our most populous cities and zones.

Thousands of fancier or AR styled guns were soon howling for Jim's hide, and they promptly got their wish. He is gone as a voice against an array of the black guns.

Prior to 2004, such guns were taboo for a decade under the Clinton administration. George W. Bush decided to let the so-called assault weapons sunset. We had a turbulent decade when the assault weapon made a comeback, and a lot of people, often those with long hair, rock and roll music, and some racial groups favored them, brought them to gun ranges, and of course they made their way into criminal channels.

The semi-automatic rifle, commonly used in hunting and varmint shooting has been developed into firearms which resemble, but aren't the same, as true assault rifles. There is great public demand for these rifles, and TV footage of U.S. troops carrying them. Our military has a big influence on what guns we carry, and how we use them. Civilians want what the military has.

The excitement of shooting is what keeps existing shooters pulling the trigger, and even we "traditionalists" have an appreciation for a well-made good functioning gun. If it resembles the AR-15, the armed services has, so much the better. If they appeal to you -- these black, ominous looking guns -- then by all means stock your gun rack with these. Others among us continue to use tools, which appear less threatening. The choice is yours.

Important new DNR proposals

The 2008 session of the Minnesota Legislature will see positions on game and fish laws, which are departures from the past. The Minnesota DNR has proposed a reduction of the daily take on walleyes -- from six, down to four fish. And a proposal to eliminate, essentially, all shotgun hunting in the uplands, when using toxic shot. The phase-out would be complete by the hunting seasons of 2010.

But the big news is still the walleye limit, as it affects many of the state's outdoorsmen who revere this game fish. The reduced limit makes sense, as several key lakes around the state already have special regulations restricting the walleye limit to four. Biologically speaking, the reduction would not have much effect on the overall population in the state. It does urge conservation of the species, but the reduction will not reduce the total harvest all that much. About seven percent, is the estimate.

When the game warden takes a gun

Serious disregard of the laws governing the harvest of game and fish results in the confiscation of sporting equipment used in the law breaking. State Conservation Officers, formerly the "game wardens," often regret having to take boats, motors, firearms, and archery equipment, along with the game or fish, deemed in possession in excess of stated limits.

On days when the fishing is too good, and an excess of crappies, bass, sunfish or walleyes are found, the CO has no choice but to seize hunting and fishing paraphernalia.

It is unpleasant enough, being hauled into court, paying fine for the over possession, but in serious matters, it doesn't end there. Pickup trucks, automobiles, trailers, and such lesser items as Coleman lanterns, spears, rods and reels. Anything including transportation, that has obviously been used in the mis-adventure.

State law dictates quite clearly what is subject to seizure in the game and fish laws. The game or the fish are taken. The larger items are more seriously considered, but when restitution exceeds $500 or so, a violator could lose expensive items. Sometimes the game or fish is processed by a licensed operation and it is distributed to needy persons in the county.

The headache doesn't end with the initial appearance in court, when a fine is handed down. It can take months before final results filter down.

The guns, tackle, and gear are sold by the state in the spring every year. It was once possible for a person to buy a gun at a good price, but now, with all of the restrictive gun buying measures in place, the State is usually going to sell the guns to licensed firearms dealers who submit bids.

It is best to obey the game laws, and most of us do. Becker County's courts do not often have gross disregards to contend with, but local Conservation Officers do bring in cases of taking game and fish to the extreme.

It is always a good idea to be well informed as to regulations. Fish or hunt with these in mind, obey the laws and one has no fear of the warden.

Introducing youth to guns and shooting

Every year in the spring months, sportsmen's clubs announce their youth firearms instruction programs. A parent or guardian usually enrolls young boys and girls approaching their 15th birthdays. Shooters from the gun clubs handle the actual instruction -- usually in class rooms -- using materials that have been prepared by the DNR or the National Rifle Association, or any of the other leading arms and ammunition companies.

Because safety is always a foremost concern, guns and ammo aren't in the picture from the beginning. There's ample time for that later, although the kids are always eager to handle firearms and shoot some live ammunition.

Often, the parent provides his boy or girl with a firearm that he used. It is conveniently available in his gun rack. But it is often far from a good choice for a new shooter. That old eight pound Browning A-5 semi-automatic, for instance. It is going to kick the beejeebers out of a young person. Often, that fear will work up to be a flinch, fear of the gun and its recoil. Selection of a starter gun, a rifle or a shotgun is best left to an expert, and they're often those trained people, certified by the NRA and participant-teachers in state sponsored youth firearms training. And in all instances parents should be qualified to guide their young shooters when taking them on the first family hunting trips. The parameters are outlined in the state's prepared regulations book. The subject is too complicated and complex to be taken lightly.

The USDA professional hunters

The existence of a cadre of trained professional shooters as maintained by the U.S. Department Of Agriculture surfaced in Minnesota two years ago, when the feds brought in pros to kill off a lot of deer in northern Minnesota. Seems chronic wasting disease was evident in cattle yards in Marshall County. It was necessary to cull the deer, the processed venison, when safe, was given to food banks. The existence of these gun-toting pros has not been widely promoted, but they're there, all right. One of the big functions is their presence at major airports, where they kill off and are controlling deer, geese, cormorants, pigeons, sea gulls, as well as everything that can get in the way of private or commercial aircraft. Jets "ingest" gulls, geese, and ducks into the jet engines. Some awful crashes with huge losses of life and aircraft have occurred. A cormorant was ingested into a jet engine at Chicago's O'Hare in Sept. 2004, resulting in 107 deaths, and there have been literally hundreds of similar incidents. But these sharpshooters are on daily duty at JFK, Newark, Dulles and at 150 other airports across the nation. At Los Angeles, it's the sea gulls. Even Detroit Lakes' local airport has Canada geese at the southeast corner, and the FAA has taken notice of this. There were nearly 6,000 wildlife-airplane incidents in 2004. Even with these professional hunters working on this problem and others, there are detractors who claim that these "hunters" aren't needed and that the invading critters should be spared. If a bear dens under your porch, or a coyote takes your spaniel, these animal damage control experts are the ones to call. And for the most part, even active hunters and conservationists were not even aware that they existed and were working at the job every day.