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Young hunter bags black bear

Taylor Johnson and his 200-pound black bear shot near Height of Land Lake on Sept. 3.

Bear hunting has been very good hereabouts, this season. Among the successful shooters is 14 year-old Taylor Johnson. He and his dad, Dean, built two baited locations. Taylor scored by taking a 200-pound blackie at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 3rd near Height Of Land Lake. Dean and Irene Johnson live in a rural location, where they encourage hunting, shooting, and marksmanship. Apparently, Taylor has learned his lessons early, as he's scored on his first try at bear hunting.

The Steinmetz deer camp north of Highway 113 has two bear kills so far and they're out there trying to fill two more tags.

Taylor Johnson's rifle was a .308 Winchester rifle with the make not specified.

Has the ultimate been reached?

Forty years ago, we were introduced to steel shot. In its beginnings, it was woefully inadequate. In its paper tubes, it occasionally fused together with a bit of rust. Ammo makers soon suggested that we advance at least two sizes in order to secure sufficient density. That is, where #6 lead was considered suitable, we go to #4 steel, or even to #2s, never a particular favorite for taking down a duck. We suffered through many changes or "improvements" as the ammo makers experimented with new and unfamiliar materials. First on the scene was Bismuth. This was a bit less in density from lead, and did a creditable job. And it did not damage gun barrels, as hard steel shot was in suspect of. Choke tubes that you would screw into the adaptable threads in the muzzle came into being. At least now, steel could be put through existing shotguns without damage. Still, the difference in density between lead and steel was not solved.

Along about this time, an engineer in Oregon hit upon a combination of metals he named "Hevi Shot." Eleven percent denser than lead, it hit the shot-shell industry like a bomb. Now everyone needed to fuse together a new combo of metals to compete with Hevi Shot. American manufacturing ingenuity being what it is, ammo makers were aboard with their new product. All of them perform beautifully, downing waterfowl -- pheasants too -- with better performance than any of the old lead loads.

What are they called?

Well, Federal says Black Cloud. Not exactly spherical, it is said to be deadly. I've used it, and it is! Remington loaded up with Hevi Shot for one season, under license, but was soon in business with its own Wing Master HD shells, Kent with its Tungsten-Matrix.

They cost money!

Hevi Shot has been met by all ammo makers. Research and development costs big bucks, and the ammunition suppliers are out to recoup their investment. So these ultra shells cost a pretty penny. But they do down the biggest mallard or Canada goose. Believe me. I've tried most of them. Pheasant hunting too requires non-toxic shot in many upland areas where waterfowl may be present. The new super loads down a pheasant better than the old high base loads of 1 1/4 ounces of fives or sixes. So you need to make a choice this fall. Be ready to pay the extra money for premium shells, or you can go to the much-improved lower cost lines of steel shot, at a significantly low price.

Unspoiled northwestern Montana

Yes, there is a small piece of North America, shaped by the glaciers thousands of years ago, which remains relatively unspoiled and unchanged. Called the "Crown Of The Continent" by naturalist George Grinell in the 19th Century, it was crossed by the Lewis & Clark expedition. Today, it contains Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and a lot if America's Rocky Mountains.

The big predators are all here. Timber wolves, cougars, coyotes, black and grizzly bears, Canada lynx, some fisher and marten too.

Of course, Glacier National Park isn't the same as the glacier age left it, but northwestern Montana isn't all leased out to ranchers and oil drillers by the U.S. Bureau Of Land Management. There are still swift running glacial streams, boreal forest, and roadless areas. In this 21st Century, much of it is unspoiled only because it is largely unreachable.

Unimpenetrable, due to its roadless areas that keep out only those who penetrate it in winter with snowmobiles or mountain skis. Most of this travel requires experience and know how of how to live off the country's wild game. The predators exist due to America's last vestige of the snowshoe rabbit. He's here in all of his winter white, which affords protection by coloration -- brown in summer, white when snow arrives. Here, too, is the last of the Canadian lynx in America. He, too, hunts the snowshoe hare. In the northern reaches of the western Canadian provinces, lynx are more numerous but never plentiful anymore. The same goes for the elusive wolverine.

Time was, when I was a kid, we gunned snowshoe hares with our 22 rifles. Now they're a rarity, even in remote regions of North Dakota. Coyote hunters bag a few, and they're occasionally seen in South Dakota's pheasant areas.

Global warming is having an effect on the big predators that still roam the remoteness of northwestern Montana.

A motorized visit to this part of America is always a joy, but most of us will never be able to penetrate the vastness of much of this untamed part of America. Still, having a look at it while skirting its edges does have a satisfying feeling. Leaving it alone is probably the best way to see its continuance. Let your grandchildren have a chance to see, and admire it too!

Ducks Unlimited

Our local Ducks Unlimited chapter will stage its annual banquet and dinner at the Holiday Inn on Thursday, Sept. 17. If you're a waterfowler -- and even if you're not -- join Ducks Unlimited. Unrivaled in habitat preservation, DU is continuing its vital work in Minnesota too. Come, have a great dinner, have a look at great hunting paraphernalia, and make a bid or two. We need you!

My favorite duck

Over the years I've taken just about every species of waterfowl that has ever invaded Minnesota. Sure, the big greenhead drakes and the Canada geese were always appreciated when they were in our bag, but there's one little, very trusting duck that we could almost always rely upon. He is the ring bill, often re-named the ring necked duck. Ring neck us usually the waterfowl specialist's name for this little diver. He looks a lot like his larger cousin, the bluebill, or scaup, which is in a serious decline in recent years.

Ringnecks over-fly Minnesota in late October, until the middle of November, when winter weather closes down his migration. Ringbills will be found on the outer banks of the Carolinas in winter. He makes his migration pattern in a northwestern-southeastern pattern, rather than a north-south flyway. In any case, ringbills have been a mainstay for Minnesota water-fowlers. He's been here when scaup, mallards, teal, canvasback and others have not.

Ringnecks have always been an abundant breeding species. Thank heaven for that! They have declined in Minnesota, which is considered at the edge of its range. They're not a prairie nesting bird at all. Ringnecks arrive in spring when there's still snow on the ground and only the shallowest field sloughs have opened up for him. Ringnecks are commonly seen on the larger staging areas of our Tamarac Refuge, and he stays until the season opener.

Waterfowl researchers of the Minnesota DNR are actively studying the nesting and breeding habits at this time. Research teams are based in Bemidji, which has always been a center for such studies. This research takes some doing, as ringbills conceal their nests well, and in remote places. The areas of our refuges and preserved habitat areas have been of great value, as our ringbills are a Minnesota nesting bird that we've always been able to rely on.

Many is the time when a ringbill -- or two or three -- were all the chances we would get on a duck hunt in Tamarac or some of the other local lakes. We're better off with our junior sized ringbills. Do you feel ashamed that at one time in our duck hunting history, many of us called them "trash ducks" along with bluebills? That was never the case with my hunting partners and I. We always revered this trusting little duck that paid visits to our bluebill spreads.