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.

Twitter: R U fishing this wknd w/a cell phone?

Posted by: Jim Braaten under Fishing Updated: May 11, 2010 - 9:52 AM

We tried this last year for the Minnesota fishing opener with good success so let’s give it another shot this year. I’m talking about using Twitter to share fishing reports and pictures with fellow anglers across Minnesota. The beauty of using Twitter is the communication is almost immediate—right from your boat, provided you have cell phone reception.

Setting up an account is easy, free and takes just a few minutes of your time. Go to www.Twitter.com and click on the “Get started now” button. Enter your name, a user name (this is how you will be seen on Twitter) and a password, plus a few other details and soon you’ll be in business. If you’re worried about privacy…just use a nickname and that will work, too.

Once you have a Twitter account communication is like a two-way street. You have the ability to share brief 140 character messages with the world. Brag about the fish you are catching…complain about the miserable weather…share a funny experience at the boat landing. The point is using Twitter on the fishing opener is like virtual coffee shop chatter. Best of all, you’re not talking about the experiences the next day or when the weekend is over. Nope, on Twitter you can describe the action as it is happening.

If you are using a cell phone that doesn’t have “smart phone” technology (BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, etc.) don’t despair. You can still have most of the mobile Twitter functionality, it just takes a few more steps. Once you have an account—click on “settings” and then click on “mobile” for details on how you can send a “tweet” simply by sending an ordinary text message.

Share your weekend fishing success with the world as it happens by using Twitter.

Share your weekend fishing success with the world as it happens by using Twitter.

Now, if you want to send a picture from a non-smart phone it gets a bit more involved. Provided your phone has a camera, to send a picture to Twitter on a basic phone you will need to go to a website, such as www.TwitPic.com. This site automatically coordinates with Twitter so if you already established an account on Twitter you simply use that same login information for TwitPic. Again, once you logon for the first time go under “settings” and you will see an Email address which you can use to upload pictures. A picture that is uploaded to TwitPic will automatically appear on your Twitter updates, too.

The process I’ve just described is usually made a lot easier if you use one of the many applications available for a smart phone. Still, if everything sounds way too confusing don’t despair…you can also have fun reading other peoples’ tweets and you don’t even have to sign up for anything.

Within a few days StarTribune.com will be aggregating all tweets using the hashtag #MNFishOpener. What this means is out of the millions of tweets made daily only the ones pertaining to the Minnesota fishing opener THAT ALSO INCLUDE THE #MNFishOpener copy will be shown. That’s why it’s important that when you tweet about the fishing opener somewhere included in that 140 character Twitter message it must also include the #MNFishOpener characters (not cap sensitive).

If you have questions or comments about any of this send me a message on Twitter (@jim7226). You can also follow my fishing tweets by clicking on: www.Twitter.com/jim7226. Now, rumor has it that Dennis Anderson will also be using Twitter this coming weekend. You can follow all of Dennis’ tweets by linking to: www.Twitter.com/StribDennis.

Oh, and by the way…a quick word of advice. If you just landed a lunker and you happen to be fishing at your favorite honeyhole…be sure to turn off any geotagging features that might be enabled. If not, you might just suddenly discover a lot of fishing company appearing out of nowhere around your boat.

Kenyon smelt fry celebrates a longstanding outdoors tradition

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: April 30, 2010 - 11:56 AM

Have a hankering for a good old fashioned smelt fry? Then check out the Kenyon Volunteer Fire Department’s Annual Smelt Feed being held this coming Saturday, May 1st. As this area’s oldest and biggest charity smelt feed, the Kenyon event could be one of the last chances this year to sample this unusual springtime delicacy.

Once a widely popular fish in areas stretching from Minnesota to Maine, smelt were often dipped or seined by sportsmen using nets from tributaries throughout the Great Lakes region. The spawning fish on their “smelt run,” as it was commonly known, no longer appear in the same numbers as they once did back during the ‘70s and ‘80s.

While several theories exist as to the disappearance of the Great Lakes smelt, most folks agree the heyday for this springtime fishing ritual appears to have come and gone…at least for now. Today, most smelt gathered in quantity are purchased through commercial fishing operations.

The Kenyon smelt feed has a reputation for attracting large crowds from throughout southern Minnesota so plan accordingly by getting there early. Kenyon is located within an hour’s drive of Rochester, Mankato and most areas of the Twin Cities. I urge you to come out and support my hometown fire department and their continuing effort to keep the smelt eating tradition alive.


Boating safety begins on the highway

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: April 23, 2010 - 6:07 PM

Each time I hook a trailer up to my SUV I get a flashback to an incident that occurred about a dozen years ago. At the time, I was working for an ambulance service and on one particular sunny afternoon my partner and I responded to a trailer accident. A horrific accident, at that…one that left two people dead and another person seriously injured.

If there’s a side benefit to working in the emergency medical services field it's that you get to learn from other people’s mistakes. You share, to some extent, the grieving family’s sorrow…but you also can sometimes find compassion for the individual who caused the situation. Bottom line is whenever a terrible accident occurs everyone seeks to find an explanation as to why the terrible event just happened.

To be fair, the trailer in my “flashback” was not a boat, in fact, it was a farm implement pulled in the very same manner. The coupling was via a ball-mounted trailer hitch but the system failed. Furthermore, the attachment mechanism was so old it did not contain the necessary safety chains required by Minnesota law to prevent total trailer detachment.

As a result, what once was a trailer suddenly became an uncontrolled projectile traveling at 55 mph on a two lane highway. Combine this with the fact a car traveling in the opposite direction at a similar speed and…well, do I really have to say anything more?

The main problem with pulling a trailer whether it be for a boat, camper, snowmobile or similar unit becomes user complacency. Let’s face it, making the connection between the trailer and your truck is not nearly as exciting as the unit being towed for the outdoor fun. And sure, while most of us ensure we have the correct ball size, lighting connection, etc. we don’t spend a great deal of time beyond that thinking about it. But perhaps we should.

In fact, can you answer these important questions about your trailer:

  • What is the trailer’s tongue weight (when fully loaded)?
  • How much does your trailer weigh (when fully loaded)?
  • What class of hitch does your tow vehicle contain? Is it sufficient for the trailer size being pulled?
  • Does your trailer require brakes and have they been maintained recently?
  • When was the last time you added grease to the wheel bearings?

The main point of all this is not to be a comprehensive dissertation on how to fulfill your due diligence for trailering safety when pulling one down the highway. Instead, with the fishing opener now just three weeks away and a busy summer upcoming, it’s just prudent to spend a little extra time right now checking over the components that so often get overlooked when lives are hurried.

I used to think trailer accidents were not that commonplace. Then about five years ago another incident occurred when someone driving by my house lost their construction trailer and it ended up in the ditch about 100 ft from my house.

The older a trailer becomes the more attention (and maintenance) it requires. Equipment wears out and will eventually break down. When we’re heading to the lake we don’t want to experience troubles. Quite often most trouble occurrences can be avoided long before heading out onto the highway.

Now when I connect my boat trailer to my truck I still think about those two young lives that were lost many years ago. The experience taught me that accidents do happen and can almost always be avoided by eliminating human negligence or error. It also causes me to double and triple check to make sure I have all the connections just right before any tires get rolling.

Pulling a trailer is an added responsibility and the safety element should not be taken for granted. Here’s hoping you have a fun, but safe upcoming boating hauling season.

Want to learn more about safe boat trailering?

Take Me FishingTM




Three words every turkey hunter needs to remember

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: April 15, 2010 - 4:22 PM

Over the years turkey hunting has taught me many lessons, but none greater than the wisdom I garnered on Tuesday, April 19th, 1994. You might ask why do I remember a particular day almost 16 years later? Simple. What I experienced that sunny morning in the rolling hills of southeastern Minnesota has forever changed the way I hunt and think about spring turkeys.

The day started out much like any other morning in the turkey woods. I got out there early and set up along a field edge with a pair of active gobblers roosted about 80 yards just over a small hill. As the morning sun began to fill the eastern sky, I soon heard the tell-tale sound of beating wings bringing these lumbering birds down to my ground level from their roosts.

As most turkey hunters will tell you, a bird on the ground is definitely “game on” for the hunter. Personally, the only time I call to birds in the roost is when I hear other birds (hens usually) already on the ground. On this particular morning, however, it appeared to be just me against these two anxious toms.

The calling ensued with some soft yelps from my diaphragm call. The toms acknowledged with a raucous gobble indicating their accepting response. Even though I could not visualize the birds quite yet, I could sense they were inching closer as this springtime game of seduction proceeded. I would let out more soft yelps…the birds would respond in kind. In due time, the two mature gobblers inched closer, but never quite within my shotgun range.

Then it happened.

After nearly 90 minutes of playing the part of the seductress hen, with my heart racing with adrenaline, what I experienced next made me gasp in horror. Suddenly, a flock of about 10 hens appeared and predictably diverted the attention of my big boys. I didn’t get up at 4 a.m. for this experience to end on such a sour note. Yet, it appeared all my earlier hunting efforts to sway these toms closer to me were about to become futile as the "kings of the woods" were now being escorted away by their entourage.

I sat there fumbling through my hunting vest hoping for an answer. I tried a box call…nothing. I tried another boat paddle call…again, nothing. I reached into another vest pocket for a different mouth call. Still, no response. During this entire time I could see these hens moving in the opposite direction of me taking with my two hopes for a successful turkey hunting morning.1994 Minnesota gobbler taken by the author.

I was growing desperate. I reached into one last pocket and removed a slate call I had not practiced with all spring. With the turkeys now 125 yards away from me and heading in another direction, I viewed my use of this call as the equivalent to a Hail Mary pass in football—it was my last ditch effort to salvage the game.

I gently scratch a series of “C”s using the striker peg and immediately something quite magical and mysterious occurred. Within 15 seconds those hens I accused of dragging my toms away were now suddenly on top of me looking for the source of that sound. I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure what I said in turkey-speak, but it made those hens angry, or at least, very curious with me. So much so, in fact, it brought them in too close for me to utter any additional turkey sounds.

Of course, by this point no additional calling was necessary. Along with the angry entourage of hens were my two nice toms now standing only about 25 yards from my seated location. Talk about a roller coaster of emotions that morning. I went from high hopes…to seeing my hopes disappear before my eyes…to then finally living the intense, heart-pounding action of scoring on a nice tom turkey. All of this done in just a matter of a few hours.

Indeed, on that day I learned to NEVER GIVE UP!! Turkeys can be fickle, unpredictable birds that will often times leave you scratching your head trying to figure them out. Oh, sure, I’d like to claim it was my superb calling skill back during that 1994 morning which allowed me to bag my third Minnesota gobbler. Truth is, it was more my stubbornness to accept defeat that eventually paid the turkey hunt dividends.

Is the fervor over Quality Deer Management starting to wane?

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: April 7, 2010 - 12:19 PM

In what is sure to cause some heated coffee shop discussion among deer hunters, acclaimed deer author and photographer, Charles Alsheimer, has penned an upcoming June article for Deer & Deer Hunting magazine entitled “Has the QDM Bubble Burst?” (Click on the link to read an excerpt from that article)

In a nutshell, Alsheimer suggests that due to cultural and sociological factors, both landowner and hunter attitudes about QDM are causing some individuals to re-think their positions on the highly popular deer management concept. Consider these major “pitfalls” now challenging the ultimate success of QDM:

  1. Unrealistic goals – anticipated results not achieved.
  2. Problems with neighbors – uncooperative neighbors become big headaches.
  3. The wrong focus – expectations for producing big bucks too high.
  4. Money matters – disposable income tighter for most budgets.
  5. The burnout curve – poor results eventually beget loss of interest.

My Take

I’ll be quite honest, I have never been a supporter of QDM. To me deer hunting is much more than engineering the deer herd to produce bigger bucks. Sure, QDM supporters will say the management concept produces a healthier deer herd by using more selective harvest practices, as well as proper land management techniques, but the main motivation for most QDM enthusiasts is more deer sporting bigger racks.

What I think, and hope, will evolve from this is a conservation-minded thinking that melds together many of these deer management theories. QDM serves its supporters well if the measure of success for every deer hunt is seeing trophy class animals on a more regular basis.

Unfortunately, that is not how every deer hunter thinks. Sure, most hunters will agree a big-antlered deer is a trophy in any hunter’s mind. Still, I believe there’s a majority of deer hunters who take to the woods each fall carrying with the notion any deer harvested should be considered a "trophy" in the hunter’s mind. In other words, deer hunting management should be more about creating deer hunting opportunity and perhaps less focused about the size/frequency of seeing the deer’s rack.

Your Take

So, what do you think? Are you a strong supporter of QDM who takes issue with people talking about the perceived demise of this popular deer management concept. Or, have you been someone reluctant to jump on the QDM bandwagon because you’ve long had issues with the deer management principle. Either way, leave a comment below and tell us what you think.


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