Minnesota’s Buffer Zone Proposal Needs Careful Consideration

I suspect this blog post won’t make me popular among all sportsmen.

Particularly those sportsmen in Minnesota who have latched on to Governor Mark Dayton’s proposed statewide 50′ waterways buffer zone law proposal.

Is the new law proposal the panacea to bring pheasant populations back to respectable levels once again?   I doubt it.

Will the one-size-fits-all proposal achieve positive outcomes for improved water quality?   Maybe.

Does the Governor in his attempt to sell both farmers and sportsmen on the concept really understand what he is doing?   Not likely.

Ever since this buffer zone concept was first proposed at the Minnesota Pheasant Summit last December sportsmen have clamored to this notion of having landowners mandated to provide vegetative strips to “buffer” waterways from our varied land use (i.e. such as crop farming, etc.).   The concept was first introduced to a bunch of pheasant hunters meeting to brainstorm ways to turn the tide of our state’s pheasant population decline.

In reality, it was a savvy place to announce such a proposal because the crowd gathered all welcomed the concept and was hungry for something positive to grasp onto.   In effect, immediately the news spread like wildfire with sportsmen as the ambassadors carrying the message of this much needed change.   It was a perfect public relations scenario.

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Predators love to roam areas near watercourses for the buffet it can become with susceptible prey often being easy pickings.

Well, truth is this concept is intended to have a greater impact on future water quality than it will have for upland birds.   In fact, I actually question if these buffers won’t become killing zones for pheasants, et al. as nesting and brooding habitat now becomes condensed to narrow corridors where most predators are ripe to roam.   Seriously, where do mink, raccoon, skunks, and coyotes do most of their traveling — yup, along watercourses.   It’s a natural highway for them.   Are you telling me that a nest that must sit idle for 3–4 weeks during incubation isn’t a large gamble for the birds anyway?   Let’s not make it even easier for the predators.

Honestly, that is one of my great concerns that deserves much deeper study instead of some anecdotal legislative gesture put forward by an elected official looking to place a feather in his proverbial political cap.   Granted, I applaud the proposal as a measure deserving consideration on many levels, but my concern is it’s nothing but a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that will ultimately not be served as promised.

Now, in full disclosure I am both a sportsman and a landowner who has a watercourse running through my farm.   To the best of my knowledge, there is no crop production that comes within the 50′ requirement, so I do not have any issues that I believe personally affect me regarding this matter.

But other farmers and landowners do have some legitimate concerns as it relates to their interests.   In one blog post I read yesterday the blogger summed up the agriculture perspective concerns far better than I could have grasped and/or explained it.   Take a look at this post entitled: The Buffer Strip Controversy…Debunked.   The blogger, Sara Hewitt, appears to be someone who understands the ramifications even better than our Governor.   I urge you to check it out.

This raccoon is not out for a casual stroll...it's on a mission to find food.

This raccoon is not out for a casual stroll…it’s on a mission to find food.

In closing, perhaps the aspect I hate most about this buffer measure is the simplicity of it.   To the average sportsman who hears about the concept…the immediate response is something like this: “it sounds good to me…let’s do it!”   Yet, I think such a cursory examination of the proposed buffer measure really shows a certain shallowness in thinking.   A shallowness by the sportsman in terms of a “quick fix” or “stop gap” action to fix a problem that is much deeper than adding a few strips of grassland here and there.

I might even call this buffer strip concept a false conservation hope that has potential for future negative consequences.   Indeed, I did not attend the Minnesota Pheasant Summit, but I ask what other substantive pheasant population measures did you hear come from that gathering?   I heard none.   It seemed once this buffer concept was proposed it overshadowed any other potential conservation action conversation.   In effect, the stakeholders of that meeting largely came away from the gathering skipping and singing “Happy Days Are Here Again!”

Well, time will tell.   I might be entirely wrong in my take on this subject, but I can’t help the fact I have some deep reservations about this buffer proposal, especially as it relates to conservation.   It could backfire.   I don’t believe the proposed measure has all upsides without some legitimate risks.   In nature there are few easy answers in this complex world.   Let’s be putting our efforts and our hopes behind proven science and not a government policymaker looking to increase his overall public approval rating.

Caught Up In The Hype Some Call Ammunition Hoarding

About two weeks ago I did something that might draw the ire of certain disgruntled folks.

That’s right…I placed myself in a position to hoard ammunition, by some folks’ account.   And not just any ammunition, mind you…nope, this ammo has been in the news lately as possibly eventually being banned by the ATF.  Editor’s note: Breaking news just moments ago shows that ATF has currently withdrawn it’s proposed plan to ban certain types of modern sporting rifle ammunition (AR’s)

So, I got this sales flyer from Cabela’s and it looked intriguing.   I needed to get away from the office and a quick trip to Cabela’s seemed like a logical good choice.   So, I decided to go for it.   Be there when the store opens at 9:00am.   See if the deals promised in the sales flyer would be available.   After all, it had been several years since I had last purchased any rifle ammunition.   Maybe I would get lucky.

Well, I showed up at the parking lot about 20 minutes before the doors opened.   First car in the customer parking lot.   Then another came…and another.   By the time store opening was closing in there were several cars carrying hopeful shoppers.   Perhaps 5 minutes before door opening we all gathered at the door.   Oh, there were maybe 20 of us.   Few people seemed to know each other.   It was obvious each person was there for a purpose and had a goal in mind.   Was it the same goal?   Who knows.ammobox

Suddenly the doors to Cabela’s swung open.   There was no stampede.   There was a purposeful entrance by everyone.   Much to my surprise, however, people seemed to scatter in various directions.   I paused and grabbed a cart.   Not in any particular hurry.   Besides, my shopping on this day wasn’t fueled by frenzy.

So, I walked back to the gun department and seen most of the people gathering in that general area.   There seemed to be some disarray as folks did not seem to focus on one particular sales end cap or display.   I took a sharp right turn past the dog department because I had a hunch.   I had a hunch that sometimes the folks at Cabela’s use this area to spread out their customer activity.

I guessed right.

I approached a bin that much to my surprise contained THE PRIZE!   Indeed, the ammunition on sale that I was after was in this bin.   Nobody else was within 30 yards of it when I walked up.   I hesitated briefly just to make certain my eyes were not deceiving me.   YES!   YES, this was the ammo that attracted me to come to the store on this day.   I loaded one box into my cart, I loaded another box into my cart.   I then paused to see if there was some limit on how much could be purchased.   Didn’t appear so.   About that same time the first person showed up and reached for their intended ammo purchase.   I reached back in again.

The feeding frenzy was on.   I was suddenly at the epicenter.   IN LESS THAN A MINUTE from the time I placed the first ammo box within my shopping cart the supply was all gone.   There I stood with a cart full of ammo and suddenly throngs of angry customers who where also there for the same purpose, but could not imagine the supply would be gone literally minutes after the doors opened.

I quickly left the area before more chaos ensued.   On one hand I was ashamed I got so lucky, but on the other hand I didn’t do anything that others in my situation wouldn’t also have done.   I got lucky.   I guessed correctly.   I could just as easily have walked out of that store empty handed had I made a wrong turn or dilly dallied.

Now, if you’re planning to blast me in the comments section for my actions go right ahead.   It would be different if I was habitually a person always seeking to buy ammo like this.   That’s not me!   Remember, I told you I have not purchased rifle ammunition for several years.   Yet, I wanted to experience just what the current situation really is.

I heard the store employees afterwards saying how what happened on this particular morning was worse than Black Friday after Thanksgiving.   Certainly could be.   Granted, they did not have an abundance of ammo on hand…but it disappeared incredibly fast.   In fact, it was almost unbelievable how it quickly went from a full supply to nothing.

The scenario I just related has been going on now for some time.   In some areas and with some types of ammunition the demand has eased.   In other areas of the country the scene just keeps repeating itself over and over.

I wish I could take out my crystal ball and predict when all this ammunition craziness will end.   Yeah, I suppose for many years we were spoiled when ammunition was readily available and fairly cheap, all considering.   Those days seem to be behind us, at least for the short term.   Yet, I am optimistic how someday we will once again be able to hit the shooting range without concern about how we will replenish the supply of ammo being used up from a fun day just out shooting.

I refuse to feel guilty about purchasing ammunition no matter what the caliber or quantity.   Especially when one gets lucky and scores on something in very high demand like I did on this day.

What Deer Hunting And Coffee Drinking Both Have In Common

I just had a terrible cup of coffee.   At Christmas I received one of those single-brew coffee makers and it came with a variety pack of different coffees in an attempt to find just the right blend a person would want to purchase more of.

Well, sorry Starbucks fans…but that coffee sucks.   It’s bitter, leaves a bad aftertaste, it’s just not what my java-drinking palate yearns for, I guess.

I’m more a traditional coffee drinker…I like it hot and black.   Nothing added.   Just the pure taste of the roasted coffee beans and the aromatic magic it creates for all the senses.

Yet, I completely understand we all drink coffee in our own way.   Those who go to Starbucks are accustomed to somehow enhancing the flavor and making it more, shall we say, “personal.”   Take one Starbucks gourmet blend of your choosing then add a little cream, a little sugar…hell, for that matter add whatever pleases you to make the liquid your daily morning ambrosia.   It is your choice so do what makes you happy.   After all, you paid $4–5 for the experience get the most out of it.

As you can tell my personal tastes for coffee are not worthy of any fancy experience.   Oh, I’m glad there is Starbucks, Caribou Coffee, and all the other chain java stores willing to cater to the crowd who likes that sort of thing, but it’s not for me.   I’m totally happy with a different sort of coffee drinking experience.

This brings me to deer hunting.   You might ask, what does deer hunting have to do with drinking coffee?   Perhaps nothing in the literal sense, but certainly plenty in the figurative relationship.

You see, I also like my deer hunting simple without all the frills.   I don’t fret about finding this way or that way to constantly improve the experience.   Nope, I just like to enjoy the basic deer hunt experience without fancy additives.   Sort of like my coffee.   I want to consume the deer hunting experience much the same way I have always enjoyed it.   Not looking for creative new ways to improve it no matter what the motivation is behind the action.   That’s not my cup of…well, in this instance, coffee.

But that’s not how a growing number of deer hunters seem to operate.   They seem restless.   Always skeptical of their state’s game managers and the plans they have set forth for population managing the herds.   These folks have purchased their deer license and by god it’s time now to manipulate the experience in the manner best suiting their individual hunting tastes.

I call them Starbucks deer hunters.   Indeed, with that license purchase gives them the right to add a little antler point restriction, suppress methods and equipment use they don’t favor, essentially create the outdoor experience they want while all other deer hunters be damned.   This is their license and the deer resource should be enjoyed the way they choose to concoct it.

This is what troubles me about what hunting (and enjoying the outdoors in general) has become.   Lots of selfishness pushed by fringe interest groups.   Sometimes it’s done because folks think they know what is better for everyone else.   Other times it’s because they have a belief their hunting management style would be better suited to achieve personal goals and that is really all that matters.   They take this àla carte approach to deer hunting management much as they do the coffee they drink at upscale establishments.   They fine tune the taste so only they think it’s palatable, and in the process not really caring what others may think.

Seemingly gone are the days where our society all drinks out of the same coffee urn and is subsequently pleased with the product being consumed.   Today, we have become a divisive group of selfish wildlife consumers many of whom demand things be served up “their specific way” because that is what happens to appeal to them.

You may think how making a coffee and deer comparison is a rather silly approach to this topic.   Perhaps so.   Yet, I contend the analogy only serves to underscore how it’s still possible for all to enjoy the same product (deer hunting) without getting so hung up on the many various options available (restrictions, laws, regs, etc.) one might think is necessary to make it a more enjoyable experience.

As deer hunting and population management goes it should not become some trendy “flavor of the day” offering only to suit a rather small segment of the deer hunting tastes.

Oh yes, I get it when one walks around carrying a Starbucks logoed cup or carrying a fancy Mathews bow in hand this says a lot about the person.   Just realize my personal tastes for what you covet as important might be completely different and should not be shortchanged.   Not all deer hunters favor the latest trendy brand of deer management many folks want served up, nor should we be forced to drink it.