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Larry Suennan, hunter education instructor, teaching the finer arts of trap shooting.

Firearm safety is important part of hunting heritage

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Twice in the last month, I had heard comments in casual conversations concerning firearms and how they were unsafe, were of no real use and had no place in a home with children.

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Having come from a hunting background and raised in a home where guns were present, these comments seemed rather harsh. My grandfather and dad both loved the outdoors and firearms and hunting were part of my heritage. All my friends' families had firearms and, back in those days, once we were able to carry a firearm afield, rabbits, squirrels and an occasional grouse or pheasant were added to the family's larder. We were contributing to the family at an early age.

Back when I was a youth, we were taught that a firearm was a tool that had to be respected and cared for and had a real purpose. They were not toys but a belonging that served the user.

We were taught the workings of the firearm, what size shell fit in the chamber and how to safely handle it. Before being allowed to use it on our own we had to demonstrate proficiency with it. It was a prized possession which would be passed down to the next generation.

Just like driving a motor vehicle, cutting grass with a mower or using a chainsaw to limb a tree, care must be taken. Familiarity and knowledge of the workings of the unit are of high importance. Education at an early age made all the difference.

The history of firearms goes back several hundred years and their evolution to the present day is extremely interesting. There are numerous books that detail this.

The use of firearms in hunting allows sound management of a renewable resource. The best thing that can happen to an animal is to be hunted. Being classified as a game animal allows it to be managed as such.

Wildlife management is the key to species survival. Without the use of firearms in deer management, the deer population would explode. Complaints of deer depravation would skyrocket and car-deer accidents would become much more commonplace. We all know that using an automobile for deer control is not a very good idea.

Hunting is not the only use of firearms. Shooting competitions such as small bore and large bore leagues plus trap, skeet and sporting clays offer something for everyone when it comes to shooting sports. Shooting events make up part of the Summer and Winter Olympic venues. I also find casual shooting at the range with a few friends very enjoyable. We are very lucky to have the shooting ranges managed by the Willow River and Hudson Rod & Gun Clubs offering these activities locally.

Appreciation of firearm workmanship and makeup of the gun is also a part of firearm ownership. Just like classic automobiles and paintings, certain firearms are considered things of beauty and art. Firearms and related accessories are highly collectable.

As mentioned earlier, education of firearm function and use at an early age is the key in all this. Anyone who was born after Jan. 1, 1973 needs to take a hunter education class before they will be issued a license.

Most other states also require this for out of state hunting regardless of age. This is a very good thing! The four rules of firearm safety are repeatedly stressed. If all are followed to the letter there can be no accidents.

1. Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.

2. Always control the muzzle of your firearm and keep it pointed in a safe direction.

3. Be sure of your target, what lies in front and beyond.

4. Keep your finger out of the trigger guard and away from the trigger until you are ready to fire.

We are very fortunate to have several very good courses that are offered in this area. New Richmond offers a spring and fall course and occasionally an adult course as does several of the surrounding communities. These offerings are more than just safety courses. Hunting ethics, wildlife management, conservation, law enforcement and a variety of other outdoor activities are taught. Firearm handling and takedown plus actual shooting are important parts of the package. A range day provides the students an opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency in all aspects of the course. A written exam is the final step in receiving their diploma.

I would like to see these hunter and firearm courses made mandatory in our school curriculum starting at an early age for potential hunters and non-hunters alike. Firearms are a very important part of our daily lives and always will be. They are useful tools that need to be respected and not feared.

Duck Stamps

By Tom Kerr

USF&WS

Many people hear the term "duck stamp" and automatically think about ducks. In reality, many species of plants and wildlife benefit from the land purchased with federal duck stamp dollars.

Originally created in 1934 as the federal license needed to hunt migratory waterfowl, federal duck stamps have a much larger purpose today. Since 1934, duck stamp funds have been used to purchase or lease more than 5.3 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the United States. These lands, many of which are called Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA) and National Wildlife Refuges (NWR), are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the 150 million acre National Wildlife Refuge System. Besides waterfowl, many species of plants, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles benefit from land purchased with duck stamp funds.

June 29 will be the first day of sale for the 2012-2013 federal duck stamp. This year's design features a wood duck, the artwork of Joseph Hautman of Plymouth, Minn. Hautman has previously won the contest three times, in 1991, 2001 and 2007.

In our local area, most of the 8,000 acres of Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the St. Croix Wetland Management District were purchased with federal duck stamp funds.

These WPAs are managed with the goal of restoring the prairie, wetland and oak savanna historically found in St. Croix, Polk and Dunn counties in western Wisconsin.

In addition to hunting, these WPAs are also open to bird watching, wildlife observation and wildlife photography. The Fish and Wildlife Service also maintains a one mile loop trail on the St. Croix Prairie WPA located about two miles west of New Richmond. Take some time and come out and enjoy your Waterfowl Production Areas.

If you are interested in buying a $15 duck stamp or learning more about duck stamps, check out the duck stamp website at http://www.fws.gov/duck stamps/. We also sell duck stamps at the Wetland District Office at 1764 95th St. in New Richmond.

For information about the St. Croix Wetland Management District in western Wisconsin check out our website at http://www.fws.gov/mid west/StCroix/ and if you are interested in learning about other Refuge lands in Wisconsin go to the state map at http://www.fws.gov/mid west/maps/wisconsin.htm. Although they are called Refuges or Waterfowl Production Areas, these public lands offer many other opportunities including hiking or observing wildlife.

So if you are interested in restoring or protecting some of our last remaining wild places for future generations, whether it's for the birds or not, you can do your part by buying a federal duck stamp.

Warden Paul's Corner

Bow Fishing

With rough fish entering the shallows, many people are starting to bow fish. Equipment requirements for legal bow fishing include arrows equipped with a metal barbed tip that is attached to the bow with a tethered line that allows for retrieval of the arrow and the fish.

Rough fish taken by bow cannot be released or returned to the water. Rough fish cannot be left on the shores or banks of the waterway where the rough fish were harvested.

Crossbows are legal for bow fishing. Bow fishing is legal in all of St. Croix County lakes except within the Willow River State Park. Bow fishing is allowed during the day and/or night with the aid of lights. Remember to be courteous to homeowners when using lights at night on the lakes.

For any questions or to report a violation, call Warden Paul Sickman at 715-684-2914, ext. 120.

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