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.

Posts about Equipment

SHOT Show gathers hunting's newest and best products

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: January 17, 2010 - 5:23 PM

Imagine a trade show with approximately 1,800 display booths requiring a person to walk over 13 miles just to see everything.   Now, imagine how this industry-only show (not open to the public) has achieved such great popularity it draws excited exhibitors and attendees from all 50 states, including over 75 countries worldwide.

There must be something special going on, huh?   Indeed, the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) is no ordinary trade show and the doors are about to open for this year.

Ever since SHOT’s beginning back in 1979, it has grown into the biggest shooting sports and hunting showcase of its kind found anywhere in the world.   In fact, Tradeshow Week, the trade-show industry’s premier journal, has in recent years ranked the SHOT Show within the top 25 largest trade shows found in the U.S. and Canada.

As I look back, I recall attending my first SHOT Show in 1989 when it was then held in Dallas, Texas.   I’m pleased to say this year marks my 20th SHOT having only missed shows held in Atlanta, Georgia (1999) and in Orlando, Florida (2009).   All I can say is it just keeps getting bigger, better and more exciting every year.

On display at SHOT will be thousands of new hunting and shooting-related products each hoping to make an impact very soon on retailer shelves.   Truth is, if you’ve developed a gadget or some other idea for the outdoor industry this trade show is almost a must attend.   It’s also become a must attend for the nearly 60,000 retail store product buyers and the 1,500 media folks who annually show up.

So, what will be this year’s big new outdoor product for sportsmen?   How will the shooting sports industry’s mood be looking ahead to President Obama’s second year in the White House?   Which outdoor companies will emerge with hot products and which ones will fold due to the on-going stress of a very challenging economy?

These questions and much more will be answered in less than 48 hours when the doors open at the Sands Expo & Convention Center in Las Vegas kicking off the 32nd annual Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show for 2010.

I’ll be micro-blogging as I walk SHOT this week (January 19–22) on my personal blog (www.SportsmansBlog.com) as well as posting quick comments on Twitter: www.Twitter.com/jim7226   Please follow along and feel free to interact with any questions or comments.

Just keep in mind things happen at a very fast pace during SHOT Show week.   I’ve heard it said that during the four days this outdoor show runs if your goal is to visit every booth, you have approximately 22 seconds of time for snoop and discovery with each exhibitor.   Obviously, one person can’t cover it all, but as my sore feet will attest each evening back in the hotel room…I intend to give it my best attempt.

Making a list, checking it twice

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: September 1, 2009 - 4:05 PM

OK, I’ll admit when it comes to planning an outdoor adventure I’m sort of a list freak.   Been doing it that way for nearly three decades.   To me, the planning and organizing phase that goes into preparing for a long-awaited hunting or fishing trip can be nearly as much fun as actually going on the trip itself.

I discovered quite some time ago that having the right tools, equipment and food along for the adventure goes a long way toward achieving a satisfying outdoor experience.   Besides, when you’re high up on the mountains in Colorado or in the middle of nowhere on the plains of Montana…well, let’s just say heading to town to get forgotten butter is not a realistic option.

During the upcoming weeks sportsmen throughout Minnesota will be embarking on important outdoor adventures they have been planning for months, if not years.   Whether it’s elk hunting in New Mexico, mule deer hunting in Wyoming, or even waterfowl hunting in Manitoba the outcome for experiencing the event both safely and fun will largely be a product of proper planning.

About 15 years ago I developed a master equipment checklist that I now use for nearly all my bigger hunting and fishing trips.   The checklist contains the equipment or trip essentials that at one time or another I have probably used during my outdoor getaways.   It’s comprehensive and I certainly don’t take it all on every trip, however, it becomes a great master resource from which to determine my needs for any given outdoor adventure I may currently be contemplating.

The equipment checklist is actually a small brochure I printed and will gladly send to you.   Just mail to me a self-addressed, stamped (business-sized) envelope (SASE) and I will drop one in the mail back to you.

Jim Braaten
P.O. Box 25
Kenyon, MN  55946–0025

Need the information now?   No problem.   You may download an Adobe Acrobat Reader version of this brochure by linking HERE (1mb download).   Just be sure to print it using the “Shrink to Printable Area” setting on the page scaling screen, otherwise some of the information on the edges my get clipped off during printing.

Honestly, the time spent preparing for a big hunting or fishing adventure should be an exciting time.   The anticipation building up to the event itself not only adds enthusiasm for the experience, but the planning process can be critical to ensure an outing’s eventual success or failure.

If you've got big travel plans upcoming, I urge you to spend the weeks leading up to your big outdoor adventure carefully planning for your possible equipment needs.   I can attest from first-hand experience, when you need an item, like a handyman jack to change a trailer tire — you’ll understand the subtle difference between an equipment checklist and an equipment wish list.

Should tree stand safety harness use be mandatory?

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: August 21, 2009 - 12:28 AM

In a former career I worked on an Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulance service for about a dozen years.   During that time, I responded on thousands of 911 calls ranging from the utterly ridiculous to the downright deadly serious.   Oddly enough, there were two calls that continue to stick out rather vividly in my mind.   Both emergencies involved hunters who had fallen from their tree stand.

I suppose one of the big reasons these incidents struck a deep chord with me was because I, too, am a hunter and could easily imagine myself as the unfortunate victim lying there.   Let’s face it…spend enough time out in the woods and accidents will happen.

Sometimes you get lucky, then again, sometimes you don’t.   Problem with tree stands is the margin for error is rather slim.   One wrong move or misstep and down to the ground you go.

Back 30+ years ago hunter restraint systems were rather basic and functionally inadequate.   In most cases they consisted of a web strap wrapping around the hunter’s waist with another strap tied off to the tree.   I suppose at the time this seemed sufficient as a safety mechanism, but in reality the early designs often constituted a different sort of hazard to hunters who had taken a misstep.   At times a hunter would be left hanging with so much pressure on the straps they were unable to release the adjustment mechanism.

Well, fortunately those days are long gone.   Today’s modern tree stand safety harness systems have become so high-tech and comfortable it just makes good sense to use them.   Besides, not only are they much more functional…but maybe it’s time we also consider them to be even fashionable.   Consider this.

This past week the Sportsman Channel announced that beginning in 2010 all programming on their popular network must include hunters using appropriate tree stand safety devices and approved procedures.   In fact, the network’s official policy states that any scheduled episode that does not adhere to guidelines set forth by the Treestand Manufacturers Association will be removed from the weekly programming slot.   That’s a serious stance.

“We’ve received positive feedback from our producers and manufacturers on this move and we hope that other manufacturers will join the effort,” said Willy Burkhardt, President of Sportsman Channel. “Sportsman Channel is setting the standard in the outdoor industry for others to follow. We want to ensure that all sportsmen watching our programming are shown the safe and ethical ways to hunt, shoot and fish.”

While I certainly applaud the Sportsman Channel’s efforts…it makes me wonder what might be next for those of us who enjoy deer hunting from elevated tree stands without any cameras rolling.   Is it possible that Fall-Arrest Systems(FAS) or Full Body Harness(FBH) devices might someday become mandated for our use, too?   I certainly wouldn’t rule out that possibility.

In the meantime, with Minnesota’s archery deer hunting season only four weeks away now is a good time to consider how you might start playing it a bit safer out in the woods this season--especially when using elevated tree stands.   Keep in mind a good FAS or FBH system will likely set you back upwards of $150 or more.   Sure, that sounds like a lot of money…but it’s probably still less than the deductible on your medical coverage if you need to have a broken arm set in a cast (or worse) at the emergency room.

Believe me, I understand how practices such as wearing seat belts in a car or protective devices in a tree stand can be perceived as restricting your freedom of movement.   Ultimately, the choice will always be yours to make whether or not you want to use any kind of safety device.

Yet, if you haven’t taken a closer look lately at the type of safety equipment available for the deer hunter it’s time to check it out. 

As I recall, in both instances when I responded in the ambulance the hunters involved would have fared much better had they followed safety procedures and employed the correct protective equipment.   More importantly, both hunters suffered such debilitating injuries that their deer hunting was curtailed for the remainder of that particular hunting season.   I guess eventually we all have to ask ourselves…is it worth continuing to take those unnecessary health risks?

Don't overlook the value of owning quality binoculars

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: August 18, 2009 - 11:24 PM

I never realized the importance of a good pair of binoculars until one October afternoon back in 1992.   Not only did my binoculars prove helpful in what was turning out to be a great Montana antelope hunt, but they quite possibly also saved a life.   Not my life, but the life of another hunter who on that particular day happened to be traipsing along in a pasture where they weren’t supposed to be.

Indeed, I remember the day quite vividly.   Slightly overcast, rather warm afternoon temps, moderate breeze…certainly not bad conditions to be sneaking around on the Montana prairie.   My buddy, John, had one last doe tag to fill and standing about 225 yards in front of us was the perfect candidate to complete our hunting adventure.

As John carefully nestled his .243 rifle into the notch of the shooting support sticks, he began to adjust his aim and prepare his shot by looking through the rifle’s scope.   We were in no hurry, the prairie goats were not in the slightest bit aware of our stealthy approach.   As John prepared for the shot, I held my Steiner 7 x 50 binoculars to my face scanning down range at the target to witness the forthcoming action.   Just then I caught a slight glimmer of sun reflecting off some blaze orange…much to my surprise, another hunter was perhaps 550 yards or more from our location directly in-line beyond John’s target.

I quickly hollered…DON’T SHOOT!

Immediately, the antelope spooked, my buddy John glanced back at me with a look of growing disgust, and it was quickly obvious I had some explaining to do.   I then handed John the binoculars and explained there’s another hunter out there.   Unfortunately, neither of us could see that other hunter with the naked eye…but with the aid of binoculars their presence was slightly easier to determine.

During the next several minutes we both tried to calm our thumping pulse rates as we contemplated what could have just happened.   Please understand both of us practice safe hunting procedures and we ALWAYS observe what is beyond our targets in case we miss.   In this instance, all our eyes could see was rolling, rugged terrain with lots of sage brush.   Combined with the fact this pasture was supposed to be exclusively ours to hunt…we had no reason to imagine that another unsuspecting hunter might wander into harm’s way.

Yet, thanks to a pair of quality binoculars it once again saved the day.

When I was in my teens and 20s I never put much emphasis on binoculars being a vital outdoors tool.   Then, the older I got the more my aging eyes began to realize just how important the use of binoculars are toward being a successful sportsman — no matter what the age.   Sure, spending big dollars on fancy rifles and bows seems more appealing and fun than spending it on optical glass, but those items are not necessarily more important.

An old timer once explained to me that the mere act of walking through the woods or on a mountainside does not always constitute hunting.   But, if you’re systematically peering through a pair of binoculars scouring the landscape, well, that’s when you can claim you’re doing some serious hunting.

If you don’t own a fine pair of binoculars I urge you to consider making the investment.   Really, no matter what you do outdoors — hunting, fishing, birding, camping, stargazing, etc. — binoculars will enhance your outdoor experience.   And don’t settle for cheap glass, either.   Do your homework and find a knowledgeable retailer who can demonstrate the many quality styles and options available.   Then be sure to purchase binoculars that are handy and comfortable enough that you will want to use them.

No doubt about it the lesson I learned many years ago in Montana convinced me of the real value of using binoculars while hunting.   Not only can they increase your ability to put more game on the table, but they also allow you to be much more aware of your surroundings which means you’re playing it safe outdoors.

Weekend events expose youths to outdoor fun

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: July 29, 2009 - 12:36 AM

Tri-State Outdoor Festival

Are you looking for some inexpensive fun for the entire family this coming weekend?   Consider attending the Tri-State Outdoor Festival being held in St. Charles, Minnesota—just a short two-hour drive southeast from the Twin Cities.

This second annual event is primarily for kids designed to introduce them to new outdoor activities.   Daily skill events include many hunting and fishing related games, such as: air rifle range, BB gun/slingshot shoot, skeet simulation, trout pond, rock climbing wall, fly-fishing obstacle course, kids archery shoot, tomahawk throw, plus much more.

While the festival emphasizes youth outdoor activities, there will also be over 100 vendor booths on hand promoting a wide array of hunting and fishing related items.   There’s even a 3D pop-up archery course for adults, so don’t leave home without your bow.   For more information: www.tri-stateoutdoorfestival.com or on Facebook.

DATES: July 31, Aug. 1&Aug. 2 (Friday thru Sunday)

TIME: 2pm – 8pm (Friday)
        10am – 8pm (Saturday)
        noon – 6pm (Sunday)

LOCATION: Winona County Fairgrounds (St. Charles, Minnesota)
                 (Click HERE for a map/directions)

COST: Free (Children 15 and younger)
          $8 (Individuals 16 and older)

Trailblazer Adventure Expo

This year Game Fair will play host to the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation’s youth learning program known as Trailblazer Adventure.   This national program expects thousands of Twin Cities’ area youth, along with their families, will participate in various outdoor skill challenges, such as: archery, shooting sports, game calling, and more.   Participants must go from stage to stage experiencing hands-on what makes each outdoor activity so much fun.   Upon conclusion of the challenge, all youths will be eligible for a prize drawing awarding outdoor equipment to several lucky kids.

Game Fair is celebrating its 28th year in 2009 having grown into the largest, pre-hunting, family participation event in the country.   With hundreds of exhibitors and dozens of seminar speakers, this event has become an annual tradition for many sporting families from throughout the Upper Midwest.   For more information: www.GameFair.com or on Facebook.

DATES: Aug. 7, Aug. 8&Aug. 9 (Friday thru Sunday)
           Aug. 14, Aug. 15 & Aug. 16 (Friday thru Sunday)

TIME: 9am – 6pm (Daily)

LOCATION: Armstrong Ranch Kennel (Anoka, Minnesota)
                 (Click HERE for a map/directions)

COST: Free (Children 6 and younger)
          $5 (Children over 6)
          $8 (Senior Citizens)
         $10 (Adults)
     (Click HERE for a printable discount coupon for admission)

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