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'Marley & Me' and 'Merle's Door': two great books on dogs

We saw many sportsmen and dog lovers at the recent movie "Marley & Me." We all enjoyed the story by newsman John Grogan. But you'll enjoy the original book too. It relates other events and happenings of Grogan and his family while they had Marley, including two felony cases on their block when living in south Florida. The dog's response to these situations and to other less climatic events make for good reading.

Another good book, one of the best ever, is "Merle's Door." This is the story of a dog adopting a man, instead of the other way around.

The author is Ted T. Kerasote of Jackson Hole, Wyo. Yes, that's the place where you've seen the arches of elk antlers on the town's main square. You were there, probably, on a Yellowstone Park visit. Kerasote is one of America's best outdoor writers. His work has appeared regularly in the New York Times, National Geographic, Audubon Magazine and all of the hunting and fishing magazines.

While on a Utah raft trip, he saw the stray dog, which was about ten months old, a yellow Labrador breed. This is the tale of a dog and a man and their mutual, growing love for each other. Throughout the book, there is always a strong, logical case for the dog giving up his total freedom, for what? A dry place to sleep, some Purina Dog Chow and kibbles. In time, Merle learns to fend for himself, but Ted has quite a time breaking Merle of old habits, like chasing cattle, bison and coyote.

Merle has a fear of shotguns, but not of rifles, as he goes along on elk hunts. Merle had been shot while a young dog,

Love and trust grow during the years of their association. Merle reaches the age of 15, the equivalent of 95 human years. This is a book you'll find difficult to put down. There'll be a turn of events on the very next page.

Pheasants in west-central Minnesota.

Yes, there are pheasants in our own Becker-Mahnomen County areas! Motorists traveling Highway 59 to and from the casino have reported that they're regularly seeing ringnecks on the shoulder of the highway. Out for gravel in the late afternoons on winter days, these pheasants are indeed part of the efforts of the local Pheasants Forever chapter. Some may be remnants of the old Hoban pheasant hunting farm, which operated briefly south of Osage. Some others could be strays from the hunting preserve up at Bejou. Apparently oblivious of the severe cold, they're able to find food in the timbered and slough areas along the Buffalo River and in similar cover across the prairies. This is encouraging news indeed. Some years hence, pheasant numbers may be sufficiently restored to make hunting them hereabouts a practical thing. Pheasants Forever is the nations most successful group of any restorative effort; even better than the wild turkey efforts, which are also spectacularly successful in our northern counties.

An uncased firearm in the vehicle

A retired, former Minnesota Conservation Officer is one of the authors and a principal sponsor of a bill in the legislature, which would permit the transport of an uncased firearm in the hunting fields. Currently, in Minnesota, the law requires that a gun must be unloaded and inserted into a case designed for the purpose. It is often inconvenient to search for a gun case amongst all the duffle and paraphernalia that accumulates in a hunting vehicle. Often a member of the hunting party is separated from his mates and it is necessary to make the trip to pick him up, often dog, and of course, his firearm.

North Dakota's approach is both sensible and safe. One may have an uncased firearm in the truck, with the chamber empty, although ammo may be left in the magazine. South Dakota is more liberal. There, the gun may be transported with ammo in both magazine and chamber, uncased, as well. Perhaps too liberal!

Road hunting is a tried and true method of helping to fill the daily bag with little effort. A hunter is positioned on the right side of the truck, with uncased gun ready. No shell in the chamber, but the magazine filled with shells or hunter cartridges. Upon sighting game, the truck stops, loads the chamber and is in the hunting mode, safely, easily, and often productive of effort. This is an ethical, successful hunting style, aided by the simplicity of having the gun at the ready. I would like to see Minnesota's gun transport law amended to copy the North Dakota approach. There have been no gun accidents reported in the Dakotas resulting from their more sensible approach to firearms transport.

Obama and the sportsman

What does the new president know about hunting, fishing, and the out of doors? Probably not much. But leading sportsmen's organizations, including Ducks Unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Pheasants Forever, and others, have praised Obama's selection of Colorado Senator Ken Salazar as Secretary of The Interior. This important cabinet post is going to be filled by a ranch raised westerner with a great record of previous positions on outdoor matters including the administration of the U.S. owned lands of the western states. Senator Salazar is a political moderate who will treat hunters fairly when they wish to hunt on lands controlled by the Bureau Of Land Management, which rents out lands to ranchers. Hunters seek to gain access for elk and deer hunting there, and there have been problems aplenty in the past on this.