Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson

For October 17th, 2008 Edition.

I fully realize my weekly banter is basically designed as an "outdoor column", and I intend to keep it that way as much as possible. Adding to this statement I do not need to remind readers that we live in an increasingly regulated society that imposes more and more rules and restrictions concerning our day-to-day activities. Unfortunately, this factor interjects politics into nearly every facet of our lives.

Being a creature of habit I too frequently take for granted that life in general stays pretty much the same year in and year out. That can be a big mistake. Just for kicks, how many of you out there actually take time to read and study in depth any or all of the "rule books" the various government agencies publish that list the "yes, yes" and the "no-no's" concerning many of our normal daily activities. Examples might include driving, fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, using state or federal parks, etc. etc. Take duck hunting for example.

This current year marks the 60th season I have taken part in the annual fall waterfowl hunts. Sixty years ago the "rule book" consisted of four or six pages. Now the Wisconsin Migratory Bird Regulations booklet spans thirty-two pages! For a change I decided I'd read the small print pamphlet cover to cover and re-educate myself as to what is O.K. and what is not O.K. A quick synopsis of my reading lesson can be summed up by declaring; "Bureaucracy, plus a dose of stupidity, has invaded the sport of waterfowling!"

I've always thought one of the basic roles of any regulatory agency was to attempt to keep the rules simple and easy to understand. Boy, have I been living in the dark ages!

Let's start with "What's New" on page 4. Try this on for size. Quote: "The scaup season daily bag has been reduced to 1 scaup per day except for a 20 day period in which the daily bag limit is 2. This 20 day period differs between the northern and southern duck zones. See pages 14 and 15 for details." (Question: Do scaup known which zone they're in?)

For those of you who do not know what a "scaup" is, let me explain. There are two varieties of scaup, lesser scaup and greater scaup. Both species are similar in size shape and coloration, making it nearly impossible to tell them apart prior to bagging one. To further complicate the issue there is another species of duck, the ring neck duck that looks almost identical to scaup. Hunters may legally bag 5 ring necks per day, but many beginner duck hunters will not have a clue as to which is a scaup and which is a ring neck, especially hens. Another species, the redhead, will further confuse proper I.D. as the female of that species also looks like a female scaup. Immature birds of all four species will drive even the experts nuts trying to figure out what they are. Am I wrong or would it be a better idea to make the bag limits on all of these similar looking species the same?

Let's next skip to page 7 and examine "Open Water" under the "Methods" heading. Quote: "Open Water means any water beyond a natural growth of vegetation rooted to the bottom and extending above the water surface of such height as to offer whole or partial concealment to the hunter. Dead stumps and dead trees in the water do not constitute a natural growth of vegetation."

Now wait a minute, isn't any tree, dead or alive "natural vegetation?" I think so! So I can hide behind a living tree in a beaver flowage but can't hide behind a dead tree in the same beaver flowage! Explain that one to me!

Now how about the phrase "to offer whole of partial concealment." Does a lily pad offer partial concealment? It would cover about 1/16 of an inch of my hip boots or waders. But would officer Game Warden see it that way?

Moving on to "Structures, Boats and Vehicles" on page eight I found this gem. Quote; "While pursuing migratory game birds it is illegal to: Structures: Hunt from any pier, dam, lock, breakwater, or similar artificial structure. Class A disabled hunting permit holders are exempt."

Let's say I have a dock on Area Creek that has dense stands of cattails on either side of it. I can legally stand in the water among the cattails and shoot ducks but I can not stand on my dock, which is surrounded by vegetation and shoot ducks. Huh? Who thought this one up?

How about section 3, "Devices" on page 8. (We are still in the "illegal to" section, where item 3, which pertains to decoys and "may not's".) Quote: "Left in the water more than 20 minutes after the close of waterfowl hunting time." I'm O.K. with that one. But, then comes number 4. Quote: "Left in the water unattended. Note: You may leave decoys unattended on dry land."

So, if I'm hunting on my farm field I can leave my decoys there for all 60 days and nights of the waterfowl season but if I'm hunting on my farm stock pond I have to remove the decoys every day before 20 minutes pass after the legal shooting time. Does that make sense to anyone except some desk jockey bureaucrat?

I've got space for one more, although there of dozens of "good ones" in the remaining 20 pages! We are now on page 11 in the Possession Restrictions and under the Retrieval rules. Quote: "Crippled birds which fall or move into open water should be immediately pursued and a hunter may shoot crippled birds from a boat propelled by paddle, oars or pole."

The paragraph goes on to warn hunters they may not shoot cripples in open water (or any other type of water) from a moving boat under power by a motor. Here's the problem with that restriction. It is quite obvious to this hunter the person or persons who dictated that rule have never attempted to catch up to a crippled canvasback, goldeneye, scaup or redhead by simply using a paddle, oar or pole. Say good-by to your crippled duck.

Well, I've got that off my chest. I'll be sure to keep my 32-page booklet of humor in my hunting jacket and use it for a few laughs when the sky is empty of ducks.

And I'll be extra careful following all the rules, providing I can understand them. Isn't bureaucracy wonderful?

Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin.   Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean,  both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide.   Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email:  or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.

Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here

Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger

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