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Minnesota firearms deer season is upon us

The whitetail deer is a trophy indeed! And many Minnesota hunters will again try to outsmart this animal and take him on his own terms. All of this begins next Saturday morning, Nov. 7 and runs for nine days. It's the 2009 Minnesota firearms deer season.

We will pursue this crafty beast that can hear you and smell you and will move quietly and rapidly. They know where the safest, thickest timber is located, and how to sneak into one. Minnesota has several good options, including muzzle-loader, archery, and black powder, in addition to the firearms version. The latter attracts most of the hunters, the other methods fewer.

The use of elevated deer stands has exploded in popularity the past several seasons. Others continue to hunt afoot, standing at one location, while still hunting alone, or perhaps with one other person.

If there is light snow on the ground, the tracks of a deer make it all the more encouraging. Following a track can also reveal deer movement and provide you with information.

Any place where deer feed is worth watching, but it is futile to expect to find them there in the middle of the day. Sometimes, just before a storm, deer will feed actively during daylight.

Move about cautiously. Don't snap a twig or scrape a single branch. Usually, it is better to hunt the edges of cover. Plunging right into the thick stuff can be very noisy, with a deer giving you a wide berth.

In general, a whitetail buck will stay in concealing cover as long as possible before making a break for it into a clearing.

In Minnesota deer seasons of the past, driving deer was a hunting method. This required a large party, with slanders posted where deer might come out, and a squadron of men, working sometimes quietly, and other times making a commotion. I've been in on both and I've never liked being on either part of a deer drive.

If you take a stand, remaining at one place for a considerable time, you should try to find the best angle at which you can see into the cover. Then you work toward this at no great rate of speed. You must not dare to get upwind from the spot where you expect where your quarry might be. He'd slip out quietly without your seeing him.

If there are a lot of deer hunters in the woods, deer will be moving about, sneaking, avoiding them. Watch a deer crossing or an opening in the cover. A motionless hunter will have a chance. Deer don't just wander around during daylight hours. Develop your own hunting style and method and get a whitetail buck next week. When taken cleanly, using your skill, the whitetail is a trophy.

The fur trade

The fur trade was a vital factor in the development of America's wilderness. The fur trade began in the 1500s as a means of exchange between Native Americans and French trappers. The French traipsed about forested Canada and what is now our northern tier of states, including Minnesota. The French have always been world leaders in fashion, so it logically followed that it was the French who sought the billions of raw furs taken by trapping.

The French bought all of the furs that Indians could take by trap or archery. In 1608, Samuel deChamplain established a fur trading post in Quebec. In 1670, the Hudson Bay Company was established. Control of the fur trade was a major factor in the French and Indian wars in the 1770s. The Lewis & Clark Expedition of 1804-06 led to the development of the trade in the west.

John Jacob Astor formed the American Fur Trading Company. After 1812, he had a virtual monopoly on furs and he became a millionaire. It was Astor who established the wool blanket with stripes. It was the standard that a heavier blanket with three stripes would be given for three beaver skins. Astor became the wealthiest man in America.

Everyone on the frontier was a trapper. Mountain men like Kit Carson and Daniel Boone explored and trapped in mid-America. Minnesota and Wisconsin were important trapping fields. Such animals as beaver, raccoon, mink, badger, fisher, and marten were numerous, and the French and the Indians developed ingenious methods to take the critters. Experienced, skillful men became skinners and could strip the fur from the beasts quickly. Astor shipped the furs to the eastern markets, controlled by him, and the skins ended up in the French salons. In the 19th century, the fur trade declined as settlements appeared in forested country and taking large numbers of wild furs became more of a problem.

Today, many men maintain trap lines, taking most of the species that were originally sought. Commercial ventures developed and many furs were produced at "fur farms" -- the mink in particular. Trapping beaver and coon is still popular, but the numbers taken are not great.

Locally, the fur trade depended upon the Hartman brothers of Perham and Lee Schalaben and his sons Valentine and Wilhelm. All are, or were, experts in grading furs, and continue to be called upon for expertise in determining quality and value of furs.

John Jacob Astor became the leading merchant in other goods, establishing stores and outposts, principally in Canada. The "Bay Company" continues to be one of Canada's premier retailers, dealing in a wide range of general merchandise, and continuing in furs and high fashions.