Jim Braaten

Jim Braaten lives near Kenyon, Minn., and has been an avid outdoorsman for more than 35 years. He lives on the family farm that was first settled by his ancestors 152 years ago. He has been an outdoors writer and photographer, and he owns a business producing and marketing calendars.

Members of Oakdale Gun Club are as special as their facility

Posted by: Jim Braaten under Recreation Updated: October 18, 2013 - 2:28 PM

A few weeks back I spent an afternoon at an east metro gun club in the Twin Cities and I walked away quite impressed.   In fact, I learned something about gun clubs that day.   It’s not just the facility’s modern equipment and location that makes it so great.   It’s the people who all share in the experience and their love for guns that is the true foundation of any successful club.

Now, mind you the Oakdale Gun Club in Lake Elmo, Minnesota is no ordinary club.   In fact, with 1,500 members and a waiting list that takes roughly 3 years to get in as a new member, the OGC is one of the largest clubs found in Minnesota.   It’s boasts members from throughout the Twin Cities, but predominantly within a 20–30 minute drive from its gates.

Like I said this gun club has all the amenities of what you would expect in a first-class operation.   A modern trap range, competition range, various pistol and rifle open ranges, a clubhouse and even a classroom that stays busy with lots of educational activities.   Recently OGC spent over $640,000 to update the facility and to ensure it will be meeting the needs of its shooters for many years to come.

But let me get back to what make this or any gun club special.   It’s the people.   People who care about their passion, but also people who care to share their knowledge and experience with other like minded individuals.   And this is what makes a gun club like OGC really stand out from the crowd.

I met Mike Emery, the owner of Northern Rifleman, who also is OGC’s Marketing and PR director.   Mike helped me host the first Annual Midwest Fishing & Hunting Bloggers Day at their facility and ensured all bloggers who attended received a top-notch experience at the event.   My hat’s off to Mike for all he did to assist us that day with the event.

I also got to meet one of the other personalities at OGC who made a big impression on me.   His name is Michael Gerster who happens to be the club’s legislative director.   Michael is a tireless advocate for our shooting rights and spends a great deal of time working at all levels of government to ensure politicians don’t trample on our gun rights.   He works with local landowner-neighbors to the club when they have noise concerns, he lobby’s park boards, city/county government, all the way to the Minnesota State Capitol where he advocates for gun owners statewide.

I also met a host of members who are proud of their club as they very well should be.   Each year OGC teaches between 400–500 firearms safety students for the MN DNR which I believe is the largest single facility in the state to accomplish that task.   Speaking of classes, the OGC puts a lot of emphasis in education.   Take a quick look at their class offering HERE.   I’d venture to say just about any type of class on firearms or safety a person might need can be found at the Oakdale Gun Club.

Now, you might think why should any of this matter if I’m not a member.   Please check OGC’s website before making plans, but much of the facility and education is also available to the general public.   While the facility is open year-round to members who pay a fee and volunteer club service hours annually, non-members can also enjoy much of what the club has to offer on a more limited basis.   For instance, OGC offers a Novice Trapshooting Night to encourage the general public a chance to get some coaching and participate in a safe, fun, low-pressure environment.

Indeed, I’ve spent a great deal of time touting the wonderful people and opportunities at the Oakdale Gun Club.   Certainly, if you are within easy driving of OGC you need to check it out and make some new friends who share a common passion.   On the other hand, if OGC isn’t nearby it should still serve as a great inspiration to check out what your local gun club has to offer.

All across this great country you’ll find gun clubs providing opportunities for shooting fun and learning.   In many instances they are only a short drive away.   If you’ve been considering a gun club membership take the time to act soon.   You’ll discover you’re not just joining a club with access privileges…you’ll also be opening the door to make many new friendships with some of the best people around.

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Two Faribault men help establish a new wildlife record

Posted by: Jim Braaten under Birding Updated: June 20, 2011 - 10:34 AM

If you were to perform a Google search to determine the longest recorded lifespan for a Barred Owl you’ll discover a plethora of sources all claiming 18 years, 3 months as the well established longevity record for this avian species (found in the wild). That is until recently when two Faribault area men, acting independently, made an effort to set the new record straight.

This is a story about the beginning and the end for one of nature’s creatures. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information about what this Barred Owl did during the course of its lifetime, but there’s plenty to prove this particular Barred Owl was no ordinary bird.

Field notes taken by Forest Strnad in 1986.

Field notes taken by Forest Strnad in 1986.

It started back on May 24th, 1986, Forest Strnad and a friend visiting from England were hiking in an area now known as the River Bend Nature Center on the southeast side of Faribault, Minnesota. As they were walking along, the two friends suddenly observed a Barred Owl quickly fly out of a tree cavity. As a Federally Licensed Bird Bander, Strnad decided to climb up the tree where he eventually found three nestling Barred Owls.

One by one he removed the young birds and brought them to the ground where he banded and recorded his amazing discovery. Once banded, they were carefully returned to the tree thinking it to be a long-shot they would hear about these birds ever again.

Such is the life of a bird bander. You leave your mark on a bird with the hopes that someday an interesting story will develop. In the case of a migratory bird perhaps it will fly thousands of miles away when it is next discovered. In the case of a Barred Owl, movement is rather minimal over its lifetime so seeing a bird travel even 20 or 30 miles might be an extraordinary circumstance. 

Close-up of bird band recovered by Rost.

Close-up of bird band recovered by Rost.

Yet, in the case of Barred Owl carrying the band numbered 0667–95412, documented distance is not what made this bird’s discovery so unusual. Instead, it was the Barred Owl’s age which shattered the previous longevity record by nearly six years. In fact, a Barred Owl living for almost 24 years is unheard of even in captivity. 

But this story doesn’t get written without another critical participant. Faribault Fire Captain, Todd Rost, was working during June 2010 on a drowning recovery detail along the Cannon River when he witnessed a somewhat usual sight while kayaking. There, floating in the water, was a tangled mess of feathers and monofilament line.

Rost contacted me about his discovery concerned about how wildlife can suffer when humans are careless about our trash. Subsequent to that contact, I blogged about his discovery a year ago which can be read HERE.

Entangled Barred Owl as it was found on the Cannon River near Faribault.

Entangled Barred Owl as it was found on the Cannon River near Faribault.

Honestly, we thought the story would end there figuring Rost had discovered a banded bird that succumbed to an unfortunate fate due to discarded fishing line. Yet, the story was far from over as Rost later learned when he reported on the bird’s band information.

Initially Rost reported the bird as likely a Red-Tailed Hawk because it was badly decayed and the feathers were quite faded and water-worn. Soon thereafter, Rost received a query from the Bird Banding Laboratory verifying information mostly because “we found that age of the bird is unusual.”

Rost followed-up by providing pictures and other documentation to confirm that the bird found was indeed the same Barred Owl that Forest Strnad had banded 24 years earlier.

Today, when you look at the longevity records for owls you will see the new Barred Owl record contains an entry that makes this Faribault area bird somewhat special, at least to folks who find interest in these sort of facts. It also underscores the importance of bird banding efforts and their subsequent retrieval and reporting. 

Forest Strnad and Todd Rost hold the recovered band from Barred Owl numbered 0667-95412.

Forest Strnad and Todd Rost hold the recovered band from Barred Owl numbered 0667-95412.

Indeed, it’s an unlikely set of circumstances that would bring two Faribault men together to help establish an important record for an owl that lived out its entire life in the wooded river valleys surrounding their town. Yes, there’s a certain satisfaction for both Strnad and Rost in knowing they helped a local Barred Owl set a new lifespan record having documented 24 years of existence. 

As incredible as that fact remains, what may be even more impressive is the knowledge that records show only two owls (of any species) that has been documented to have lived longer than the Faribault area Barred Owl known only as #0667–95412.

As Todd Rost will surely attest, finding a bird of any kind dead and entangled in fishing line is not the desired way to view these majestic creatures. On the other hand, had this particular Barred Owl died of some other natural cause it might never have been found and reported—and that, too, would have been a great tragedy as we now understand the important facts.

Certificate awarded to Todd Rost on his recovery.

Certificate awarded to Todd Rost on his recovery.

Blogger’s Note: If you find a bird of any kind that has been banded, please follow the reporting information on the band or contact the Bird Banding Laboratory for additional information. The information you provide can be critical to those wildlife professionals who research such details. Even if you have bands several years old, the information is never too late to report.

Experience “Sportsman Day” at the Minnesota State Fair

Posted by: Jim Braaten under Fishing Updated: August 25, 2010 - 9:13 AM

Share your best fishing tall tale at the Minnesota State Fair with Mark Romanack, host of the hit fishing show, Fishing 411 with Mark Romanack, during Sportsman Day hosted by Comcast and Sportsman Channel on August 28 from 11 am to 7 pm. Fair attendees will also have the opportunity to “Spin to Win” on Sportsman Channel’s spinning prize wheel for t-shirts, hats, mugs, coolers and a signed copy of Romanack’s book, Precision Trolling.

Sportsman Channel and Comcast’s booth is located at the corner of Randall Ave and Cooper Street on the State Fair grounds. “Spin to Win” starts at 1 pm and ends at 3 pm. or until all prizes are given away.

Romanack has 30 plus years of fishing experience he showcases in each episode of Fishing 411, which airs exclusively on Sportsman Channel.

Watch Sportsman Channel on Comcast channel 738 in Minneapolis and channel 278 in St. Paul.

About Sportsman Channel: Launched in 2003, Sportsman Channel is the only television and digital media company fully devoted to the more than 82 million sportsmen in the United States, delivering entertaining and educational programming focused exclusively on hunting, shooting and fishing activities. Sportsman Channel is now available in HD, check with your local cable or satellite provider. Acquired by InterMedia Outdoors Holdings in 2006, Sportsman Channel reaches 27 million U.S. television households and is a part of the nation's largest multimedia company targeted exclusively to serving the information and entertainment needs of outdoors enthusiasts. Visit www.thesportsmanchannel.com, follow on Twitter, @SPORTSMANchnl (www.twitter.com/SPORTSMANchnl), become a Fan on Facebook, www.facebook.com/sportsmanchannel and download Sportsman App at www.itunes.com/appstore

Enjoy the outdoors? Be sure to thank a soldier.

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: May 27, 2010 - 11:40 AM

In this blog posting there won’t be any useful advice on how to put more fish in the livewell. For that matter there won’t be any interesting hunting tales shared, either. And while those topics are both important on these Club Outdoors pages…perhaps we all need to take pause for a moment and count our blessings for what makes our beloved outdoor pastimes even possible.

This past January I was in line at the Las Vegas Airport waiting to get screened when my wife noticed that directly ahead of us was a movie star. Turned out, Donald Sutherland, was waiting his turn to go through the TSA process hoping, I’m sure, that nobody would notice him. Hiding behind the dark glasses and floppy hat was a man well-accomplished in the TV and film industry during the past 50 years.

Some folks would have been in awe and clamored to get his autograph. Nope, not me…I recognized his desire to travel unnoticed and gave him the respect he apparently so desired.

In contrast, three weeks ago I was traveling home through the Norfolk, Virginia airport and directly behind me were two soldiers dressed in fatigues. They were happy, proud and full of energy. I couldn’t help but notice them. As we were waiting, I turned to them and offered them my gratitude for all they are doing through their service to this country. In a very humble manner, they informed me how the people I should be thanking were their fellow soldiers with whom they were headed to meet. Seems they were coming home on that day after their 4th tour of duty in Iraq.

As I boarded the plane home I thought about the many people I have met in my life over the years who have all helped make this country great. The true heroes and stars live among us in everyday life. They could be parents, siblings, cousins, neighbors or even strangers…but if they’ve ever donned the uniform representing the United States they deserve our deep respect and complete appreciation.

While in Norfolk I got to meet several former Navy Seals who epitomized in my mind what service to this country means. Each had spent 20+ years of distinguished service performing some of the most hero-like missions you could ever imagine. Of course, now they were just regular guys going through life working for a company in the outdoors industry during their retirement. Modest, humble, unassuming…just ordinary guys who used to do some extraordinary things for our country to keep it safe and free.

During this Memorial Day weekend I hope each of you will take some time to reflect on the sacrifices others have given to enable the lifestyle we all cherish. Freedom comes at a great price and many have paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live our lives the way we want to — hunting, fishing, camping, etc.

And while we’re at it…let’s not forget the fine service our police, fire and emergency medical services provide to our communities. They might not be on the frontlines fighting the war on terror, but nevertheless the services they provide are just as essential.

This weekend especially, let’s make it a point to shake the hand and say “thank you” to every veteran(active or retired), police officer, firefighter and EMT that we meet. Let them know we care and appreciate their efforts. After all, the outdoors would be a much different place without their dedicated service to our community and our country.

Changing conditions required a flexible approach for opening day walleye

Posted by: Jim Braaten under Fishing Updated: May 16, 2010 - 2:01 AM

BEMIDJI, Minnesota — For the 9th consecutive year my fishing group has opened the Minnesota fishing season on Lake Andrusia, a moderately sized Minnesota lake located just west of Cass Lake connected by the Mississippi River flowage. Our past experience has found this lake generally proves to be productive for the opener as we have never failed to achieve enough fish for our much anticipated opening day evening fish fry. Fortunately, this year was no exception. 

Pleasant early morning conditions greet 2010 Minnesota fishing opener anglers.

Pleasant early morning conditions greet 2010 Minnesota fishing opener anglers.

The day started off wonderful with nary a cloud in the sky and only a slight breeze barely creating a ripple on the lake surface. Perfect morning to head out on the lake with only a light coat and no need for the usual opening day rainwear or gloves. What proved to be comfortable conditions for early spring fishermen eventually gave way to walleye on the move and fishermen guessing what strategy to try next. Techniques that seemed to work 30 minutes earlier suddenly would turn quiet. The key to success seemed to be fishermen willing to be flexible in their presentation keeping a watchful eye to the ever changing conditions. 

At daybreak fishermen were finding walleye in 5’ to 8’ depths by drifting over rock points and sunken island areas. Lindy rigs tipped with a shiner seemed to work well early for some fishermen.

As the sun became more intense, plenty of fish were then later marked at depths ranging from 16’ to 22’ most prevalent around the steeper structure drop-offs. Vertical jigging was productive, but nothing worked with any predictable consistency. Throughout the day wind speeds varied greatly and the direction was constantly shifting. The early morning clear skies later turned partly cloudy and at times offered a brief respite from the bright sun.

Short-sleeve t-shirts, not parkas or rainwear, was the preferred attire for the day.

Short-sleeve t-shirts, not parkas or rainwear, was the preferred attire for the day.

There were some fish marked on the sonar at depths exceeding 30’, but they did not appear to be active. Later in the day most fish were caught from depths ranging 10’ to 16.’

About the only thing that seemed to be consistent throughout the day was the choice of bait. Shiners were in and leeches were definitely not the ticket—at least not for our group of 20 fishermen. Chartreuse was a productive color, but by no means was this the only effective jig color.

A common complaint among several fishermen were the missed bites which either means angling skills are a bit rusty coming off winter or the walleye bite was a bit light — or possibly both.

The day ended almost the same way it started with near glass-smooth water and clearing skies. Again, with the changing weather conditions the walleye bite tailed off and one-by-one the boats started heading toward our Finn’n Feather Resort cabin. That action didn’t necessarily signal the end of our first big day of fishing in 2010. Nope, instead it meant the fishermen sensed it was soon supper time and once again for the Minnesota fishing opener we were blessed to have fresh-caught walleye as our group’s featured menu item.

Few things in life taste better than freshly caught fish from a northern Minnesota lake.

Few things in life taste better than freshly caught fish from a northern Minnesota lake.



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