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Jim Braaten

Nerstrand, Minn.

Members of Oakdale Gun Club are as special as their facility

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

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.

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