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Necessary laws shelter undesirable critters

At times, desirable laws intended to protect or preserve a certain, perhaps threatened species, will shelter creatures that aren't so desirable. Take the law that protects our national symbol, the bald eagle. This broad statute also protects such birds and animals as cormorants, ravens, crows, vultures, hawks and owls, which prey on nesting upland birds.

And the new ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the Second Amendment will guarantee that a person may own a firearm and use it for his personal protection in his home. It also permits a person who is classified as a felon, due to prior convictions of civil or criminal law. There is a fine line between what a felon may own and what its intended use might be.

The felon may claim that the ownership of a handgun or a long gun is really for personal protection, but its nefarious use may at tines be for criminal or illegal use. The broad meaning of the law may be challenged in the near future by the U.S. Attorney General, or one of the Federal law agencies, such as Treasury or the FBI. Right now, a felon may own guns, although there is a law on the books, which says that he may not. Confusing? Yes it is.

Reloading your shotgun shells

Ask any participant at the Becker County Sportsmen's Club trap shooting league whether he's continued to reload as a hobby, and you're not very likely to find any active participants. There was a time when we bought a 25-pound bag of lead shot for $8, and a bag of 250 AA plastic wads for less than $5. This was a time when reloading your own shotgun ammo was indeed a money saving process. We loaded shells for trap, skeet, and sporting clays and for hunting with reckless abandon. Everyone was doing it. We cheerfully amortized the investment in a single stage reading press such as a MEC 600 Junior, and bought Red Dot in a 15-pound keg. Reloading was in its heyday.

Worldwide demand for lead kept pushing the price of bagged lead pellets upwards until they reached $43 a bag, and it appears to be more than that in some locations. The big three -- Winchester, Remington and Federal -- saturated the market with low cost promotional loads, which are really very good. Many of the most active shooters abandoned reloading at an early time, and bought a flat or two of the Remington Gun Club, Winchester Universal, or Federal's popular Estate loads. Reloading came to a standstill.

The amount of money saved by reloading was small, nearly insignificant, so it stopped and the promo loads were in vogue.

Field and Stream's gun editor Phil Bourjaily takes issue. He's out with financial proof that it really does pay. Well, using his prices that currently, in his home area, they might be. But hereabouts, we're not paying $6 a box for promo ammunition. I've seen advertising recently for the lower cost shells, effective, satisfactory loads, for less than $4 a box. With the practice of getting ammo in lots of at least ten boxes, fore savings can be made. I'm not certain that Bourjaily's article in F&S is about to spark any return to the reloading machine in the near future.

Fewer hunters and anglers in Minnesota

Minnesota launched an ambitious advertising campaign last spring, to try to stem the shrinking percentage of residents who go fishing. The ad blitz included direct mail, electronic billboards and radio ads. Not a bit of it helped. License sales are down again this year. Non-resident licenses too, are down about four percent from the same time last year.

Officials don't know whether the decline is because a slowing of the economy, the high gas and grocery prices, which means channeling earnings away from recreational pursuits. Or is it just continuing erosion caused by our young folks choosing TV, computer games, arcades, computers or similar outlets. Kids just aren't as interested in fishing as much as we were when we were young.

State waterfowlers too, are diminishing in numbers. The numbers of persons who hunt ducks continues to slide. The decline amounts to about five percent.

This is a concern, not only for Minnesota, but nationally. When our waterfowl hunting numbers drop, while we have relatively healthy numbers of birds in the marshes, it is a time to become concerned. Fewer hunters means less license numbers, fewer duck stamps, fewer firearms and licenses producing an 11 percent excise tax to pay the bills and foster propagagation and protection.

Ideally, officials would like to see stable numbers, something like the 110,000 to 120,000 hunters in Minnesota, back in the 90's. It's not going to happen unless the ducks are here. There are plenty of Canada geese, snow geese too, but many hunters are like me, preferring a fat corn fed mallard for the dinner table over other choices.

In the Mississippi flyway, the duck harvest and the license sales are the greatest in Arkansas, and Louisiana. And many of the hunters down south are visitors who pump dollars into those state's economies. North Dakota is doing pretty well also, with good duck hunting in the Condo, Rugby areas, as well as at the Federal Wildlife Refuges in the northwestern part of the state.

In good years, the seasonal take was about a dozen ducks per hunter. In recent years that has dropped to less than seven per hunter.

The lessened numbers of people participating in the outdoor sports is a disturbing dilemma. It is indeed, difficult to determine what's going on here, but there is a definite trend towards lessened interest.

Lead's uncertain future

It is a useful product, lead is. A metal that is easily formed and worked, but its continued use in consumer products has lessened. Lead has been eliminated in many paint products, and in automobile batteries.

Its future in hunting bullets has been debated for some time, but it is definitely out in waterfowl loads. To a large extent, lead in the ammo that upland game hunters use is substantially diminished. Lead ammo is verboten on the lands of the Federal U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, on all of the Federal Wildlife Production Areas and Minnesota's Waterfowl Areas.

In the preparation of fishing lures, lead is lowing grounds and the popular numbers of old no longer have lead. Lead is considered a great threat to birds such as our state bird, the loon, as fishing tackle at times gets lost, for one reason or another, and the lead part can be ingested, which is almost always fatal.

So, what is lead's future? In shotgun ammunition it will virtually disappear. In rifle and pistols used for hunting, the bullets are now being re-designed with lead no longer considered.

Steel shot has been improved with other metals in some ingenious blends that cost more, but have proven to be more effective in making the desired clean kill on waterfowl and pheasants. Yes, for pheasants the lowest cost steel shot loads do a remarkably efficient job. You need only to buy the cheapest here -- not the exotics -- and you will have success. Tom Roster, the well-known ballistician and researcher draws the conclusion that a load of high base #4 steel will get the job done.

There's no need to employ the Bismuth, Hevi-Shot or the equals that Winchester and Remington are selling now, and take these into the game fields. But, of course, they're required for waterfowling. Leads on the way out for pheasants.