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Are your firearms covered in your insurance?

I mean are the guns insured? And the other stuff? Are you sure about that? Guns are in peak demand in America these days. Just go out and buy one and the truth of the matter will come through, loud and clear. On the other hand, what if they were lost through burglary, damage in the field through accident? Or lost in a fire. It would cost money to replace them if lost by any of these, or other causes.

Some things, they're obvious. House and cars, the pick-up truck, a boat and trailer, you know you have these covered. But what about the guns that you take out of the house for use at the trap range, or for hunting trips. They're exposed to theft, of course, whether at home or in your vehicle or in a motel room. Cameras and supplemental photographic equipment that you use on hunting trips -- are they covered by insurance?

Well, you've probably made a casual check by talking to your agent who has sold you a homeowner's policy. Usually, the loss of a gun is covered up to about ten percent of the loss if they were involved in a fire. And in the case of a whole lot of guns, perhaps not.

Unless you have a maximum liability figure for firearms, and are paying a separate premium on that, you don't have the coverage that would cover a big loss.

Excellent insurance on guns is available from the National Rifle Association. About a ten percent premium for each thousand dollars in declared value. You set the value of the guns yourself.

When I was shot in Saskatchewan 12 years ago, I had a better grade Browning shotgun in my hands. The pellets busted up the forearm, disfigured the stock, and generally messed up the blued steel parts. The article that Tim Kjos wrote about the incident was proof enough of my loss. A gunsmith's statement about damage was sent to the NRA, and I had a check in my hands two weeks later. The repairs cost less than the amount I was paid.

You should inventory your guns. Take a digital picture of each of them. Write a description of the physical features of each. Include the estimated value, age, and, of course, the serial numbers.

Make a double set of photos, and keep one in the bank security box and another in your portable safe at home. You can send a set to your insurer, if you like, but that probably isn't necessary.

Maybe your coverage under the homeowner's policy is all you need. But surprises of loss aren't nice when it comes to no insured coverage.

Make that inventory, as suggested. And hey, do it today. You hope you'll never hear the crackle of flames, or be dismayed at the sight of a smashed up doorjamb, the result of forced entry. But we can't count on that happy thought.

Gray wolves again under Federal control

For a period of four months, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service transferred control of wolves to the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The Humane Society of The United States, and other animal welfare groups sued in Federal Court. A judge has cut down the state control, returning it to the Feds. Minnesota has the largest number of gray wolves outside of Alaska. Our DNR had welcomed the control transfer and things were going well until the animal rights people stepped in. For the past five years the USF&WS has unsuccessfully tried to de-list wolves in the Midwest. Minnesota has about 3,000 of the critters. They're considered threatened here, but elsewhere in the region, they are designated as endangered.

Beginning later this summer, DNR specialists will trap about 18 wolves, equip them with radio collars and release them. Studies will be made in areas near Grand Rapids, Hoyt Lakes, and Babbitt. The radio collars will pinpoint the locations, and the DNR pilots hope to spot the animals from low flying aircraft. The test blocks are 3 x 3 mile squares, but of course, the wolf's range is far wider than that. The wolf survey will continue into 2012. Seeing and counting the wild gray wolves isn't an exact science, and innovative tactics are often employed. Minnesota is big on wolf surveys.

Volunteers are monitoring the loons

We Minnesotans love our loons. After, all, they are our State Bird. The loon has a distinct echoing call, different from any other. Stately, majestic and solitary on some of our most remote lakes, the loons are really quite a mysterious branch of waterfowl. We have thousands of them in Minnesota. They migrate off the east coasts of the Gulf Of Mexico, returning as soon as our spring ice-outs. They feed on small minnows and fish, diving very deep, to up to 80 feet.

The Minnesota DNR began a loon monitoring program in 1994, asking for public volunteers to observe and keep tabs on the birds. They do so on six 100-lake regions. The volunteers use index maps, keep records, and work in a ten-day period in mid-July. Only lakes that are 10 acres in size are deep enough to interest a pair of loons. Ottertail Lake is a prime study area.

A mated pair of loons will produce two chicks per year, but not all of them will survive. Loons are prone to lead poisoning, and there are plans underway to eliminate lead sinkers from fishing tackle boxes. The no-lead idea has found wide acceptance by anglers. Loons are a joy to watch, and we are fascinated by their plaintive call. Loons are doing well in Minnesota. What greater pleasure is there but to be sitting around a campfire on a cool evening after seeing loons in the daytime, and hearing them after dark?

Iowa's pheasant season was poor

The Hawkeye state experienced a severe winter last year. The snow piled up and winter winds were fierce, just as it was here. A low of 383,000 roosters were taken, not good for the tall corn state. The conversion of prime habitat to corn growing for the ethanol plants has hurt Iowa's birds. The downward trend has been going on for the past ten years. No great number of hunters from northern Minnesota go to Iowa for pheasants anymore. Our destination is western North Dakota. Nesting conditions in Iowa were a bit better this spring, and the DNR in Iowa is optimistic.

Remembering Gene Johnson

About fifteen years ago a man drove his pick up truck into my driveway. He introduced himself as Gene Johnson. He had learned that I was active in the trapshooting at Becker County Sportsman's Club and that he wanted to get started in this. I made arrangements to take him to our gun range the following Thursday. He got squared away with paid entry and brought out a field grade Model 12 Winchester. He hit some of the claybirds and continued weekly the rest of the summer.

He had noticed the specialized trap guns that many shooters were using, and before the next season, he owned a Beretta over under. He became a good shooter, and eventually owned a Perazzi MX8 trap gun.

Gene became a mainstay at our club, participated eagerly, and went to trap shoots elsewhere, including the State tournaments in St. Cloud. He liked doubles trap.

Two years ago today, Gene was serving steaks in the club kitchen. It was hot and humid and Gene expired on the club's grounds from heat exhaustion. President Brett Friesen has seen to it that we have a memorial bench on the grounds now.

The club also has memorial special activities available in which you can participate. Please look into the details of this on the end of the service counter at the club. It's where you sign up for shooting rounds. Gene's shell bag is there. Please honor Gene Johnson's memory by getting into this. Gene Johnson: Oct. 27, 1922 - Aug. 9, 2007.