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The uncased gun or bow revisited

The remarks in this column two weeks ago have started some spirited talk and more than a little thinking, among sportsmen-hunters about town. The Dakotas do not require casing a transported rifle, shotgun or bow, when it is being used during the hunting day. An interesting bill is being considered in the Minnesota legislature right now, which concerns removing the requirement that firearms and bows need be cased while in transport. Relaxing the stringent requirement on Minnesota's hunting guns/bows in the field would being Minnesota in compliance with the less stringent laws current in the Dakotas.

When hunting ducks, pheasants, and sharptail grouse in both Dakotas in past years, I found it just great to be able to step into the pickup, ride a mile or less to another field, without having to search among the pile of duffel that accumulates when a foursome of hunters are after wild game. Out in the Dakotas, I'd simply remove the chambered round, the action left open, the magazine continuing to house the additional ammo. It is perfectly safe to ride with the chamber clear action open, forearm uncased. The Dakotas have had no bad experiences of gun accidents with the more liberal approach to gun transport. Indeed, Minnesota has had a recorded incident where a load of shot glanced off the right side door of a pickup, when a hunter was unloading in preparation of accepting short-range transport to a second hunting field.

Yes, it is indeed convenient and time saving to be able to continue to have the gun/bow ready when game or birds are spotted en route. I'm not certain whether gun safety or a control on poaching, or both, are the main reasons why the casing-the-gun-law was enacted in the first place. I have personal experience of a game warden insisting that a gun, encased in a gun case designed for the purpose, was not cased, when the shoestring laces didn't entirely close up at the butt end. How ridiculous and petty can an officer be? I'm certain other hunters have experienced similar unreasonable instances.

The bill being considered in the Minnesota legislature in this session is numbered HF 0128, and it would remove the containment in a case requirement. Currently, Minnesota has an unnecessary restriction on sportsmen.

Please sign this petition

All of the food pantries in northern Minnesota are circulating their petition to have the Department Of Agriculture make revisions of the venison donation program. This would make venison taken by lead based ammunition acceptable for distribution to needy families. You can sign this when you're at Audubon Meats, Lakes Processing, Hoffman's Meats, Lakes Sport Shop or Becker County Food Pantry. This is important and we're hoping you'll sign!

The goose is cooked

Ever since U.S. Airways flight 1549 made a miraculous safe landing on the waters of the Hudson River in January, America has a new public enemy -- the wild goose. The varieties of greater and lesser Canadas, and the ubiquitous snow geese are all included. This villain has always been there. Geese congregate around airports, as we've been building airports in the lowland sloughs that geese have always called home. Detroit Lakes' Wething Field is no exception. None less than the U.S. Department Of Aeronautics has seen the large numbers of geese at the southeast part of our airport, especially in late summer and fall when the grass there is lush. Are these geese a hazard to air navigation? Probably to a lesser extent here, as we don't have that many jets coming in.

But there is a current craze to "get rid of those darn geese, so that humans can fly safely!" PETA and the Audubon Society, both big on animal protection, support reduction in numbers. Spring, and other liberal hunting seasons haven't reduced the numbers of snows very much. Sportsmen have long cherished the taking of geese. We're supposed to be on their side, but many are supporting some measure of control. Bird lovers are pleading for a little perspective.

There are millions of geese in America, spread out from the Gulf to the far reaches of Canada and Alaska. This has always been so, but now we've invaded the goose's territory and we find that the gander is in the way.

If they're not wanted in the lowlands surrounding airports, where do we expect geese to go? Perhaps if we liberalize hunting, even to a greater extent than we currently have, perhaps we can reduce the numbers. Meantime, geese get sucked into jet engines or propeller driven aircraft, and airplanes go down. Is his goose cooked? Are we about to have him go the way of the passenger pigeon?

Status of the pheasants

The mid-central states of the upland plains are coming to the close of one of the most severe winters in a decade. The pheasant range endured several very heavy snowfalls, which covered up feed, and ice storms, which are the nemesis of pheasants. Pheasants haven't had a lot of good news since December.

Winter invaded even the more southern parts of the pheasant range -- Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. Even these parts suffered snow, cold winds, and ice storms. Twenty-four inches of snow hit western Minnesota counties, with wind chill temperatures reaching -44°F in nighttime hours. Pheasants over the range retreated to the densest of cattail swamps they could find, in order to have protection from wind and ice. Ordinarily, pheasants don't starve to death. They die from over exposure and predators, long before starvation. The winter severity index was high all across the pheasant belt, and it will require the study by the State's biologists and the crowing counts made in late spring, to determine the number of survivors.

It is difficult to say just how well the birds fared in the Dakotas. Iowa was particularly hard hit this winter, and there is concern in that state. Thirty inches of snow was common in Iowa this winter. Habitat losses have created hard times for pheasants and only a mild spring with a rejuvenation of plants and insects will keep anticipated losses down. The weather for the past four months or more, which you and I did not like, were especially hard on our wild pheasants.