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A duck hunting story from 1945

I am always delighted to have Claris Greenland come and visit me. He will always have an interesting remembrance of hunting and guns that he shares with me.

Recently, at the age of 91, he bought a new deluxe Browning Citori in 28 gauge. He hunted pheasants with it recently, and he said it worked as well as hunting with his 20 gauge guns.

But at his recent visit, he told me of a duck hunting trip that he and several other recently discharged Marines had made, back in autumn, 1945.

In Nov. 1945 when the veterans gathered, it was decided that they would go duck hunting. They chose the Federal Refuge at Cherry County, in Nebraska. That's where the ducks were! One of the Marines, who had been in four battles on Guadalcanal, Tinian, Saipan, and Tarawa. Two of the hunters were shot down over Germany and had spent a long time in prison camps. One had been in a cave on one of the Japanese Islands and had shot his way out. He received the Silver Star. Clarice said he didn't remember much about the other guys who were in the hunting party. One was a World War I vet in France and another one was a fighter pilot in Germany. There were about ten guys. Many, of course, had aerial backgrounds, and a nearby rancher had an airplane.

The ducks were hard to get at. One of the pilot guys would fly a plane over the duck slough and chase them off the middle of the lake. The ducks flew, and the group bagged 52 of them. There wasn't anyone else around, so everything was great, with no observers.

Claris said that he wonders what a Judge in court would have said to these guys, after all of the hell of wars, that they had gone through.

Too late now to be concerned about that, since it is 64 years later. Clarice and one Marine are still living, remembering that wild duck hunt.

Mr. Greenland always has interesting stories to tell me about the prairie chickens and his boyhood hunting days in Nebraska.

Many local big game processors

In a recent issue of a popular sportsmen's newspaper, I counted 67 advertisements of firms who hope to process your deer or other big game. I have sampled the sausage and ribs and burger of all of the local meat markets. The "ready for the grill" ribs of Gerald Faith's Audubon Meats are particularly good.

Local processors say that the number of jobs arriving is about average. The venison from each of them is accepted at the local food bank, so be sure to get a part of your kill donated there. This meat protein is important in the diet of disadvantaged families, and there are many in our area needing it.

Evolution of the rifle

The rifle, as we know it today began 150 years ago, at the time of America's Civil War. During that conflict, both rebels and federal troops shot muzzleloaders, some with rifled barrels, some smooth bores. With the development of primers and brass cartridge cases, fixed ammunition was born. There were some predecessors to the Winchester .30-30 cartridge, bit these used black powder, and fueled such guns as the famous Winchesters, the 1873 and the 1866 lever action Winchesters. In 1894, the Model 94 Winchester was a big step in the manufacture and production of sporting arms.

In 1903, this was about to change. The U.S. Army's Springfield, Mass., works developed the Springfield bolt-action rifle. It fired a single round and had to be reworked by opening the bolt and chambering a fresh round. Improvements in ammunition the next three years saw the evolution of a powerful, accurate new cartridge. We know it today as the .30-06, and thousands of brands of rifles were produced worldwide, using this cartridge.

America armed its troops in World War I with this rifle and cartridge. Things were about to change, however, as in 1937 a man named Garand had developed a nine-pound semi-automatic rifle. Clip fed, the Garand would fire off its clip of eight cartridges, before the soldier needed to install a new clip. General George S. Patton called it "the best military rifle ever made." In 1942, the Winchester engineers had developed a six-pound semi-automatic rifle, which was chambered for a slower .30 caliber round. Its range was much shorter than the 30-06, but it served well, particularly in the island hopping of the Army and Marines in the southwest pacific against the Japanese troops. The M-1 Carbine!

The Vietnam War in the early 1960s had U.S. troops armed with a new rifle and cartridge. It was named the "AR 14" with everyone assuming the AR to mean Army Rifle or automatic rifle. Not so! The AR letters are the beginning name of the Annalite Corporation, an American military company. The cartridge was named the 30 Caliber M-1, and Winchester developed it to civilian use, naming it the .308 Winchester, making sporting rifles for it.

Modified versions were developed for use by U.S. Marines. Since NATO had a very lightweight rifle and cartridge, it was decided that U.S. troops would adopt the NATO cartridge, and we dropped the .30 caliber cartridges in favor of one "international" round. This speedster is of .23 caliber, cartridges are much lighter, are accurate and dependable. The military 223 cartridge was soon on the shelves of the local gun store, known as the .223 Remington. It is very powerful for its light bullet weight, is accurate, and universally available.

Of course, cartridge and rifle development cropped up world wide with new firearms and cartridges, running the gamut from 22 caliber up to the mighty .500 rounds, which are used for Africa's most dangerous game animals.

The American military has had a great deal to do with development of the arms and cartridges it uses, as well as those in use by sportsmen worldwide.

The U.S. Military has always been hampered by the fact that civilians control its destiny -- the U.S. Congress.

I've neglected to include here, in its correct chronological order, the massacre at the Little Big Horn. Yes, General George Armstrong Custer's demise might have turned out differently if his troops on that fateful day in 1876 had modern weapons. Their single shot Springfield muskets were not adequate against the Sioux warriors, many of which had the Winchester carbines and rifles, bought from American tradesmen and trappers. The regiment perished because they had inadequate equipment, a problem, which the military in those days had been complaining to congress, citing its woeful inadequacy of arms.

b>Midway into the season

Last year, about 38 percent of hunters in the firearms division successfully killed a deer. About 43 percent were antlered bucks. The average guy spends about five days carrying a gun. Last year, we took about 222,000, so this year could top that. 98 percent of our deer hunters are local guys. About $263 million in retail is spent. Deer hunting has a $455 million dollar injection into our society. Bolt action and lever action guns appear to be the rifle of choice.

So of you got a deer this year, congratulations are in order. If you've scored, how about a little of it going to the local food bank?

The Minnesota duck season ends next Tuesday, Dec. 1, but then is followed by an extended goose season. Duck hunting started slow, but it did pick up later on, and most of us were pretty well satisfied. Pheasant hunts went well if you really penetrated into the usual zone on southern and western Minnesota, and it helped if you had access to some good locations.

The ruffed grouse season was locally disappointing, but if you were willing to travel, birds could be found as near as North of Park Rapids and the Chippewa National Forest near Akeley.