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Sallie and Melissa -- two great local lakes

Detroit Lakes occupies an envious position between several outstanding lakes. Of course, one meets Big and Little Detroit head on at Highway 10 and along the drive when you motor south, past a beautiful park and nice homes.

Then, a bit out of town, there's Sallie and Melissa. Outstanding for their natural beauty and the hunting and fishing they provide, both of these have always been noted for their slab crappies. I know because I've come to depend on both for winter and summer time angling. They've seldom been disappointing. In the early fall, mallards, woodies, teal and gadwall will provide all of the waterfowling you want. Yes, with the popularity of the two, the real estate has been snapped up, so it may be necessary to secure permission to set up your decoy rig and get in some shooting. But there's always the excellent boat landing at the DNR headquarters on Sallie, and a good public water access exists on Melissa's north side.

Northern pike, walleye, large mouth bass, black crappie, muskellunge, perch and pumpkin seed sunfish are all in these waters. Really big northerns are present in Sallie. All pike 24 inches long or more must be released, according to a DNR regulation, which has existed for 14 years now. Both Sallie and Melissa are relatively shallow lakes, probably 50 feet at maximum. With these two, and Detroit Lakes right in town, we've been particularly blessed. What a place to build a residential community, huh?

South Dakota hunters take a lot of pheasants

Seventy thousand local guys invite 98 visitors. Both then take their shotguns into the state's rolling grasslands and they harvest a bit less than 1.7 million roosters. That was the take last fall, and there have been five recent years when it has been higher. This year the season will be open on Oct. 16 and will run until mid-December. Limits are very liberal, guides are available, and the natives are friendly. Four thousand non-resident waterfowl licenses are available too. So now is the time to plan for a fall hunting vacation in the jackrabbit state this fall. Accommodations range from none at all, to very luxurious. You bring your wife or your girl friend, or a lifetime hunting buddy and you will not regret it. I've done it 15 times or so, each trip turning out better than the last. You simply cannot go wrong with a pheasant in either of the Dakotas, for that matter.

Black bears

Ursus Americanus has made a spectacular comeback. The black bear stands as a symbol of being the continent's most equitable "dangerous game" animal. Blackie is a popular big game animal in Minnesota, with more baiting and shooting every year. Right here, locally in Becker County, many bear are taken, baiting being a common and successful method.

It doesn't take much equipment. Your deer rifle is more than adequate. With all of the competition, the most difficult thing in getting ready is finding a reliable source of sweet stuff to use at your bait site. That can be any downed tree, cove or den.

Bear populations are increasing hereabouts, and in many other states. Alaska, with its remoteness, has the most bears, but on the entire continent, from the Arctic Circle down to the warm regions of Mexico, bear numbers have been on the increase for nearly two decades. Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan host black bears -- about 75,000 in all.

About 35 of the 50 states have annual bear hunting seasons. Bears can become a nuisance. In heavily populated states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania, they're a problem, which, sadly, is man made. People grill meats, prepare vegetables, and eat outdoors in their backyards. That's delightful and enjoyable. Trouble is, many don't dispose of the leavings in a secure manner. The garbage has an odor that bears find intriguing, and they are in garbage cans, pop coolers, rubbish piles and garbage bags in a hurry. Black bears seem to have lost any fear of humans. The bears thrive in our national parks, where feeding them is a common practice, although illegal. Black bears have attacked domestic pets like large dogs, which may challenge a bear intrusion -- and children as well, unfortunately.

Ten years ago, at the start of the 21st century, the estimated number of black bears was 917,000, and it is more now.

States with nuisance bear problems are working toward more liberal hunting regulations and less restriction. Some things work, others don't.

A black bear is a pretty fine trophy. Many a pelt has been transformed into a bear rug and exhibited proudly, although actually taking a bear at a bait site is often a routine shot taken at close range, from concealment.

Hunters who get interested enough and make a first try are pleased with the ease of it all, and are forever enthusiastic afterwards. Often, the hunting is a family affair, with in-laws and women becoming involved. I was in on a kill with Leo Steinmetz and Lennis Geer being the gunners. The remnants of sweet rolls, and pancake syrup, acquired at disposal sites at Perkins restaurants had the odor to attract bears in the couple of seasons when I went along as an observer.

With bear numbers up, perhaps early fall this year is your time to try it.

The guns made and sold in Montana...

"Are not subject to the Federal Gun Control law that requires a background check and Form 4227." So reads a new law passed in Montana, defying the federal gun law. Passed by the State Legislature, who knows if it will stand up when federal courts challenge its constitutional viability?

It is called the Montana Freedom Act, and it challenges the federal commerce of products between states. That's because no state is an island, and Congress regulates anything and doesn't permit interference. Montana claims that Obama era government oversteps federal authority. There are a number of important gun manufacturers producing arms under the Big Sky of the Treasure State. Nearly everyone owns several guns in Montana, hunts with them and relies upon them for self-protection. We'll see!