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Stocking up on 'bullets'

A piece ran in the Forum recently, concerning the continuing practice of gun owners to buy up all available handgun ammunition. The Associated Press writer used "bullets" interchangeably with "cartridge."

AP writers are generally accurate in subject and situation, but in this case bullet doesn't interchange with "ammunition." Perhaps I'm being picky in this matter, but gun owners will immediately notice the error.

A bullet is the exacta, which is ejected from a rifle barrel. It is at the business end of a "cartridge," which is an assembled part of a "round." The cartridge contained in a metal case includes a primer, bullet, case and a charge of powder.

The news item did describe a situation now occurring in America that involves gun owners snapping up ammunition cartridges, not "bullets." All three of the big ammunition producers have been working around the clock, seven days a week producing handgun cartridges.

Winchester with 57 plants worldwide puts billions of cartridges of ammunition, on the market weekly, but there's never a surplus on the shelves of the big retailers.

Gun owners fear that President Obama and the Democratic controlled Congress will pass laws that will restrict such ammunition as 38 Special, .357 Magnum, 223 Remington and 22 long rifle.

Fixed ammunition cartridges, have a long shelf life if they are stored in a cool, dry place. With the hoarding, retail prices have been advancing steadily.

Duck hunting -- a sport of the past

Fifty years ago, and before that, Detroit Lakes and Becker County offered superb duck hunting. There were lots of mallards, canvasback, teal and blue bills, along with pintail. Every species were here, in quantity.

In the area that is Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, there were dozens of elaborate hunting lodges. Many had a clubhouse, built of native stones and hewn logs. Many had a guide-manager and hunting was great. I got in on the tail end of this, when Dr. Ben Esser from Perham, would take his son Bob and I to the camp of a wealthy Dentist from the Twin Cities.

Thirty years ago when Tamarac was a new thing, hunting was still very good, with parties coming here regularly for scaup, ringbills, mallard and teal, mostly.

Harry L. Johnston and I took many limits, along with plenty of ruffed grouse.

Height Of Land Lake was a mecca for bluebills. In late October, Big Detroit hosted the large migration flocks.

We had a series of years of little moisture in the summer, and potholes did have enough water to keep spring arriving ducks here to raise broods.

The water had moved westward into central and western North Dakota, southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In those three locations, one can find waterfowl in plentiful quantity.

If waterfowling is your thing today, you'll not be happy with the numbers of birds. Hunting hereabouts for ducks will be fair to poor.

Duck for dinner

When duck is the fare on the family table, the tastiest varieties are canvasback and mallard. Not everyone is fond of duck. It's dark and different.

The canvasback watches its diet, eating only cereal grains like wild celery, wild rice, and duck potato.

The mallard likes these, but will eat fish, minnows, and frogs and may at times have a fishy taste.

When market hunters were fortunate in taking cans, this big duck brought him $10 or more, while a mallard fetched only $3 or so.

Wild duck, most any species except merganser, is a great dinner when made with wild rice, but many don't.

When you buy duck at the meat counter, it will be a mallard.

Is this the ultimate shot shell?

The ATK division of Federal Cartridge of Anoka is, of course, one of the three big ammunition producers. Federal ballistic research seems to be concentrated on producing ammo for duck hunters. The newest is a load that will put 100 percent of the pattern into a 30-inch circle at 40 yards.

Full choke has always been standard at 70 percent. Is this what duck hunters need or want? It is going to require some very accurate long-range skilled wing shooting to consistently hit a flying mallard at usual ranges.

Federal is naming the new shell the "coyote load." Federal's shot shells are big sellers in Minnesota and the Dakotas. The shells are at the top of the price list for premium ammunition.

Fewer duck hunters

Duck hunters are quitting!

Small game hunters are down significantly. Hunter participation has dropped by 10 percent across the board in the past 10 years.

In 1972, the duck stamp sales were totaled at nearly 2½ million. Every hunter buys a stamp. Two seasons ago, stamp sales were down to 1½ million.

One complaint is that there has been too much competition when securing a good place to toss out the decoys.

Pheasant hunter numbers are a reversal. More upland game hunters are in the field. They're staying at posh lounges and are catered to, which does cost money.

Others hunt the state and federal upland plots, and there are private farms where they secure permission.

Duck hunting requires effort and expense not seen in the uplands. Hunting experts see a continuing decline in duck hunting.

Urbanization in America has wiped out a lot of habitat, but there are still millions of waterfowl on remaining lakes and sloughs.

Many hunters are harvesting only eight to 10 birds in a season. The situation is not likely to reverse.