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Pheasants Forever annual convention this week

Pheasants Forever is the premier upland game preservation organization. Founded in 1982 by an outdoor writer from St. Paul, PF has grown immensely. It boasts that 81 percent of its income passes right back to local chapters for conservation purposes. Employing local biologists, the local chapters are taught how to plant and protect pheasants. Deer, songbirds, and small mammals are all benefited. Pheasants Forever holds its sixth annual convention this week in Des Moines, Iowa. About 50,000 hunters and conservationists will attend. Hunting tips and tactics, bird dog shoes and competition, wildlife art, shotguns and hunting seminars are all featured. If you're a hunter, you should join and support PF.

Pittman-Robertson collects big money

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade organization, recently conducted a survey of licensed hunters, nationwide. It was discovered that many buyers of firearms, archery, ammunition and other products are unaware that they're paying an 11 percent excise tax. In any case, this federal law collects big bucks that are returned to State conservation departments. Minnesota received more than $10 million last year.

With the election of Barack Obama, hunters and target shooters went on a buying frenzy and they're still at it. Guns and ammunition continue to sell at an alarming rate, with Federal, Winchester, Remington, Hornady and others working their loading lines at the fullest capacity. This creates funds for Pittman-Robertson. The states must match the federal funds received, by selling hunting licenses or by legislative appropriation.

Cat and mouse game

The Minnesota DNR has about 140 Conservation Officers who are on the ice-covered lakes of the state daily, checking the winter anglers in their fishing shanties. The officers must comply with the State Supreme Court decision that requires permission to enter. Some anglers delay entry, using that brief time to cut the extra lines that some are using. But many fish legally and are prompt at admitting the CO's entry. Upon entry, officers can readily see if multiple lines had been in use.

Officers estimate that one in 20 houses checked will have extra lines in action. Illegal lines are relatively common. The delay upon admitting the officer permits anglers with too many lines to pull up the lines, and be apparently legal. The Supreme Court's ruling has been a definite hindrance for officers checking illegal-al activity. At times drug use is involved, and there is that disposal activity that the visit of the COs interrupt. Officers say that they are almost never denied entrance, but entry isn't always prompt. Officers always ask for a showing of fishing licenses, and registration of the house itself.

When an ice angler is caught with too many lines, it will cost him $123 and court costs, on the average. In some cases it can be a lot higher.

The cat and mouse game will continue until the fish house phase of Minnesota angling ceases with the warmer days that follow the winter activity.

Ice fishing shanties must be off the ice at night, beginning at the end of February. Ice angling is a way of life for thousands of Minnesota residents and visitors. Most enjoy the activities, playing by the rules and catching some fish.

Lots of fish houses out on Detroit Lake

Just drive by on any winter day. Hundreds of local and visiting anglers continue to try for the elusive walleye. Cold weather has come in weeklong spurts, and then it warms a bit. This affects walleye success and requires dedication and patience -- and skill, too! Panfish angling hasn't been as slow locally, or in Park Rapids, Rush Lake or Ottertail Lake. Watching your line at a hole in the ice is still regarded as a good time, however, and lets face it, what else is there to do in Minnesota's winter? Now we're approaching the time when the houses must go. Then we wait for the ice to go out and we resume open water fishing.

Walleye action at Mille Lacs has been slow, a bit better at Leech Lake, and quite a number of fishermen have been pleased with angling luck at Lake of The Woods. This border lake has been among the best at Zippel Bay, Morris Point and Northwest Angle.

Duck season could start a week earlier

If a proposal by the DNR is accepted by the legislature, the duck season may start earlier. In 2005, the lawmakers passed a law declaring the duck season can't open before the Saturday nearest October 1. Now the DNR is asking for a repeal. It has to do with the Federal guidelines setting season lengths, and daily limits. But to open early might cut off a week at the end, but often these days are meaningless anyway, as bad weather has set in by that time, and migration has sent our birds to warmer climates. But many Minnesota duck hunters like late season hunting, including mid-November and later. The DNR will take the proposal to public meetings, asking hunters just what they think of the proposal. Last fall an early cold snap sent teal and wood ducks before the season opened, a brief closure in mid-season is also a possibility. It's all waterfowl management

The .30 M1 Carbine

In 1940, the U.S. Ordnance Department decided it needed a short-range light carbine. One of these rifles might have certain advantages over the .45 caliber semi-automatic Colt pistol in many situations. As luck would have it, a federal prisoner at Leavenworth named Marsh Williams had perfected -- in prison -- a six-pound military carbine. Winchester heard about it and promptly proposed its adoption. After just three weeks of tests at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, a new combat rifle joined the .30-06 Springfield and the Garand. The cartridge is a modification of the old .32 Winchester self-loading round. The new carbine served its purpose, and was carried by GIs in the Pacific war, and by infantry in Europe. Made by many U.S. factories, it was soon available by the millions. I personally used one of these when I was with the 405th Engineers on the front lines in Italy. It was made by the Sagnaw Steering Gear Division of General Motors. Singer Sewing Machine and Colt produced them too.

The M1 carbine was an inexpensive, yet serviceable military arm. It isn't powerful and doesn't have long-range accuracy. But it was effective in the foxholes in the Normandy invasion. But it had limitations.

When the war ended in May 1945, the U.S. Army set about to drop the M1 carbine, selling off about seven million guns. It never did catch on as a deer cartridge. It didn't have enough power or shock. Minnesota was one of the first states to specifically ban its use as a deer cartridge.

But as a military replacement for the 45 Colt pistol, it was carried by enlisted men and junior officers.

The carbine's 110-grain solid bullets were assembled into ten cartridges and thumb slammed into the gun. Its range was about 150 yards. It had crudely adjustable sights and wasn't adapted to scope use.

Today, the gun is in high demand, mostly by collectors, bringing about $250 for a gun that cost very little to produce. It is wholly a small game gun -- perhaps squirrels and small varmints. Norma and Remington continue to load commercial ammo for the M1 carbine.