Here’s What I’ll Be Doing Instead Of Pheasant Hunting

This coming Saturday in Minnesota opens the 2013 pheasant hunting season.   Now, you’d think an outdoors writer might be excited about the fast-approaching season opener, right?   WRONG!   To be honest, I couldn’t care less.   In fact, pheasant hunting in my particular area of the state has become so insignificant in recent memory I won’t even be holding a gun that day.

Instead, I’m going blogging.   Yup, that’s right…I’m going to the 4th Annual Minnesota Blogger Conference to be held up in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Now, typically this conference has been held in early September so it has not impacted any fall hunting seasons, but this year when it landed squarely on the Pheasant Opener it was still an easy choice.   Go blogging!

The problem is, for pheasant hunting in my western section of Goodhue County, Minnesota, I think a person might just as well write an epitaph for the sport of pheasant hunting.   It’s not what it used to be 30 years ago and it doesn’t take a seasoned wildlife biologist to recognize it will likely never be that way again.   The heyday for pheasants in my little world is a distant memory just like my first kiss back in grade school.   It will never happen again.

And quite frankly, I am frustrated.   I used to look forward each year during my youth to pheasant season.   Over the years I raised and trained several bird dogs just for such an outdoor uplands adventure.   But no more.   Sadly enough, I’m pretty sure this picture showing the entire staff at Pheasants Forever depicts more employees than the number of pheasants in my rural township.   This year on opening morning I would bet you lunch you could criss-cross the sloughs and grasslands of my local area and find nobody out pheasant hunting on opening morning.

And yeah, I hear what you might be saying.   If you love to go pheasant hunting so much then pack up your truck and drive west.   Certainly a possibility I might concede, but not something I am inclined to do anytime soon.

You see, when growing up pheasants were a resource found everywhere around me.   There wasn’t a fall night when I couldn’t hear the birds cacklin’ as the sun inched toward the horizon.   Countless times I grabbed my gun from the closet and set out for 20 minutes of impromptu hunting along some wooded fence line on my property.

It was fun.   It was spontaneous.   And I was young and full of energy.   Today, I’m not sure I could physically muster the amount of drive needed to trek the ground necessary to see even a single bird.   It’s no longer worth it to me.   In fact, if I do see a single pheasant these days on my property I’m not even inclined to shoot it.   It’s that depressing…and growing that hopeless.

Recently a fellow outdoors writer asked about coming down to my farm pheasant hunting.   I told him to save the gas.   I also have several hunting companions who no longer spend the big bucks on top bloodlines and training for their dogs.   The pheasant population around here these days just doesn’t justify either the effort or the expense

Yeah, I am down on pheasant hunting as I once knew it.   I tip my hat still to the throngs of folks who pile into their Suburban’s and head to the Dakota’s each fall on this rooster ritual.   More power to you.   I hope the resource out there doesn’t start disappointing you any time soon.

As for me, I’ve all but given up on pheasant hunting because to me it was always an activity I could do right here in my backyard without motels, long trips and out-of-state license fees.   In fact, there’s a part of me that simply refuses to jump in a vehicle and drive countless hours to enjoy a wild resource once abundant in my own back yard.

So, when Saturday rolls around and the the clock officially signals the opening of pheasant season in Minnesota, I’ll be sitting back in a nice easy chair improving on the craft of blogging.   Oh, sure, I would rather have sore, wet feet and a game bag heavy with long-tails sticking out.   But sadly, that notion has become a distant memory of my hunting past and I now must seek my outdoor thrills thanks to other wildlife species.

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Embrace Bloggers and Social Media To Get Message Out

I just have to laugh!   Some notions take a long time to die.   I could easily make this post my annual rant against the Minnesota DNR and their communication peeps who seemingly don’t have a 21st Century clue when it comes to communicating their message, but if I did the blog posting would largely look like it did last year.  (SEE HERE)

So, I’ll spare you all those details once again.   Point is I’ve been an outdoors writer here in Minnesota since 1987 and now because most of my communication efforts are online some entities, like the MN DNR, apparently fail to see the value.

Once again, the MN DNR is conducting their annual 2–day #RoundTable and I was not included.  Last year I sent a note in advance to DNR Communication Director Chris Niskanen (@ChrisNiskanen1) asking to be included, but alas, the note was never received.   Certainly after the blog post I wrote last year I figured I’d be on the radar for the 2013 #RoundTable session…but no such luck once again.

Here I am willing to invest my time and money to report happenings of my state’s fish and game department, but the take away is such information dissemination is not apparently that important.   What a shame.   Whether it is the MN DNR or even some manufacturer of a new outdoor product, you would think they would be doing their due diligence to include both bloggers and people from all other facets of social media.

Recently I attended a blogging conference and discovered how one of the most aggressive segments harnessing the power of blogging, Twitter and similar online communication tools targets the so-called “mommy blogger.”   That’s right, companies who promote diapers, sell mac and cheese products, encourage the use of real butter for cooking, and so on are light years ahead of others when it comes to tapping into these emerging forms of new media.


Back at the farm, I cooked up some brats to serve my hungry hunters during the fall 2012 firearms deer season.

One particular company I’ve been impressed with on Twitter is Johnsonville (@JvilleGrilling)   Not only do they tweet often and with content that adds value (not just self-promo), but they also do one of the best jobs of engaging their followers of any company I have seen.   I posted a picture back during deer hunting season that they found of me grilling their brats…and days later they were using it, with my permission of course, all over their online marketing efforts.

I can relate many similar examples of how companies or groups are in-step with those of us who blog and tweet.   I once ripped a company in these blog pages several years ago about their product in how it was poorly designed.  They got upset with me and fired back…but in the end they changed their product design because they new I had some valid points that needed to be addressed.

I will be so bold as to predict that within five years most traditional forms of how people obtain their news will largely lose significance.   I’m talking newspaper, magazines, and to some lesser extent even nightly TV news coverage.   We are living in a transition period where people demand their news immediately, in a succinct fashion, and when it’s convenient for them to view it.   Blogging, social media and videos on demand delivers the message.

Yes, indeed, I find it somewhat odd how a company peddling baby diapers is far better at engaging their audience through the blogger network than my state’s game and fish department continues to be.   <Okay, this is where I would ordinarily insert a joke about shit, but I’ve chosen not to do that at this time. Ha!>

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

What Constitutes A “Shootable” Deer And Who Should Determine It?

Before I get deep into the crux of today’s blog post, take a look at these three videos taken about 5 1/2 weeks ago on my farm using the new Cuddeback Attack trail cameras.   Each video lasts about 30 seconds and in general shows a small buck browsing on some field corn.

At this stage during the crop growing year it appears the deer is consuming the secondary, more immature ears of corn that commonly grows on the corn stalks.   Thus, this deer AT THIS TIME OF THE YEAR does not appear to be doing any particular damage to the standing corn or its eventual crop yield.

That being said, earlier in the summer when all of the corn ears are immature and this deer goes browsing throughout the field…significant damage can then occur when deer choose to dine as you have witnessed.

Shifting gears just a bit…I did something fun with these videos.   I showed them to the neighbor who rents my farm and grows these crops.   This particular farmer also happens to be one of my hunting buddies each fall.   I told him, “look at that deer.   It just stands there defiantly taunting you to come get him if you don’t like what he’s doing.”

My buddy agreed, this fall that particular deer is what he is targeting as the deer of his choice during the firearms season.

Now, keep in mind this vendetta brewing between the farmer and the buck deer is all in good fun.   After all, isn’t that what the hunting experience should be all about anyway?   Everyone heads out into the woods for very personal reasons…and it’s quite fair to say not every hunter is motivated by the same set of factors.

Yet, oddly enough…if this deer traveled just 7 miles to the northeast of my farm’s location…it would then exist in a Minnesota deer zone protecting bucks like this one.   In fact, here in Minnesota we have a three year experimental project underway that protects bucks that don’t sport at least 4–points on one antler.   This buck clearly does not.

Yes, the antler-obsessed hunters here in Minnesota have long pushed for legislation to manage the hunting experience the way they believe it should be conducted.   Apparently it’s not good enough to use self-control whereby selectively harvesting a mature deer that fits the criteria of a specific hunting party.   Nope, this group of folks want to see Antler Point Restriction (APR) rules spread across the land like a wildfire on the windy prairie.

Okay, I’m not going to discuss the pros and cons of APR in this blog posting.   Instead, what I am going to underscore is the misguided notion among some that all of us hunt for the same reasons.   In fact, I will even go so far as to say pushing for the establishment of certain minimum restrictions on the size a buck deer before it can be legally harvested is downright selfish on the part of the hunters requesting such a prohibition.

This farm where I now hunt and live was first settled by my family back in 1856–-two years before Minnesota even gained statehood.   My ancestors traded provisions for venison with a friendly tribe of Chippewa Indians during those first years so I have a long-standing familial connection with deer hunting taking place on my property.   Indeed, I take personal exception with anyone pushing for game management actions only to better satiate their obsession for shooting a big deer.

Don’t get me wrong…I like big deer, too.   Over the years this farm has been home to some big deer as shown here and here, for example.   Yet, I am fervently opposed to the DNR telling me I am restricted from shooting certain deer because their management objectives are geared solely to satisfy the whims of a certain class of hunters.   When you manage for some hunters and not for all…it fuels a certain elitism that simply has no place in hunting, at least not in my honest opinion.

Yes, thank goodness I still live in a MN deer hunting zone that is not yet affected by rules governing the size of the buck I can harvest in my woods.   Just like the farmer who plans to hunt the particular deer shown in the videos this November, our reasons for hunting are often quite varied and not always fueled by the same passion for large racks.

I think it’s high time both hunters and DNR game managers alike begin to recognize there are differences in what drives each of us to pursue this wonderful sport called deer hunting.   To think we all go hunting for deer sporting massive racks is, well…rather naive at best.   If game management doesn’t involve the physical health of the deer herd, then it ought to be up to the individual hunter—and only that hunter—to choose what constitutes a “shootable” deer.

©2011 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.