Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Oct. 15, 2001

Hunters remember when there was more habitat for wildlife than people

By Lynda Jensen

Hunting years ago was very different than the busy, bustling Howard Lake of today.

Several local hunters remember a time when wildlife habitat was more plentiful than habitat for people in Howard Lake . . . before the crush of development.

In those days, the willow marshes, natural pot holes, and wetlands were common, spread throughout the area, said Howard Barth.

"All of that has disappeared," commented Harlan Yager. "The marshes are shrinking because of development," he said.

"It's getting to be a black desert," Yager said regretfully. There used to be a lot more coverage and a lot less drainage, Yager said.

Conservation is more important than ever to balance the onset of development, he said.

Those were the days

Howard Lake itself was designated a wild life refuge decades ago. For a time in the '60s and '70s, the creamery, which is where the Sonstegard's Food building is now, used to keep the water open on the west side of the lake, allowing several thousand ducks to over-winter there, Barth said.

Durdahl remembers a sign that read "Please drive careful, please drive slow. Let our little duckies grow."

They were nice, big, fat mallards, Yager said.

Waterfowl would go into corn fields to feed, which would allow hunters to use their skills, Barth said.

Barth remembers hunting in Haywood Acres, owned by Sam Cochran, he said.

There were four good dogs that Barth had, he said. Two labs, a springer and a mutt.

Jim Wackler remembers hunting with his brothers at many places, including the Lahr farm, and the Luhman swamp, the latter of which was located across from The Greens golf course today.

"It was much freer then," he said of hunting. Wackler remembers hunting without the worry of asking permission, said.

"You never knew the sign 'no trespassing.' There wasn't such a sign," Yager said.

Yager's favorite dog was a Chesapeake named Chess, he said.

Wackler would come home from school and bag three birds by supper, he said.

At that time, Wackler used a single shot 410, which his father bought for $15, he said.

His favorite dog was a German short hair named Dutchess. She was liver spotted, he said.

Durdahl, who spent a week in Saskatchewan in Canada hunting ducks and geese a week ago, remembers hunting with his step father, Chuck Dahlberg.

Dahlberg wrote a popular column for many years in the Howard Lake Herald during the ''50s and ''60s. A sample of his work is at the end of this story.

Durdahl remembers a dandy story when he was young, he said.

As a young fellow, Durdahl went out hunting with Dahlberg. "I saw some ducks coming, and they told me to get down," he said. "All of sudden they started shooting." Pretty soon, Durdahl found himself being used to spot ducks - and the only duck he got was when they told him to get down, Durdahl said.

"I learned fast, though," he said. "I'll never forget that."

Conservation abreast of development

Yager is concerned about waterfowl populations for future generations, he said.

There are many species that are greatly diminished now, such as the King bird, meadow lark and bobolink, he said.

These birds could be seen in Howard Lake all the time in the past, and now they've simply vanished, he said.

"It was the happiest countryside," he said of Howard Lake.

Predators are also a concern, along with losing habitat, Kevin Gruenhagen said.

There are coyotes in the area as well, that impact bird numbers, Gruenhagen said.

Locally, conservation efforts are taken up by Ducks Unlimited and the Howard Lake Sportsmen's Club. Durdahl and Barth are part of DU.

Across the nation, DU raises more than $70 million from fundraisers and a membership of more than 701,000, Durdahl said.

The Howard Lake Sportsmen's Club hosts an annual fishing contest and firearm safety training. Wackler is president of the Howard Lake Sportsmen's Club.

For those who wish to donate for conservation efforts or join DU, call 1-800-45-DUCKS. For those who wish to join the Howard Lake Sportsmen's Club, call (320) 543-3372.

Chuck Dahlberg's sports column

The following are three samples of the "Field and Stream Sports" column written by the late Chuck Dahlberg, which appeared in the Howard Lake Herald.

Oct. 9, 1958

By Chuck Dahlberg

Well the opening weekend of the 1958 duck season is now history and by the looks of the reports of most of the local hunters the hunting was rather poor.

Practically all the small potholes which usually make good hunting were dried up due to the extremely dry summer.

This lack of potholes also counted a great shortage of locally hatched ducks. This, in turn, caused practically all the hunters to bunch up where there was water to float a boat, this all coupled up with a few wild high shooters on the crowded lakes and you have a mighty poor opener for the majority of the duck seeking nimrods . . . A few bunches that hunted on leased land or had exclusive permission from privately owned sloughs had fair shooting, but all in all, it was a poor opener with few ducks being shot in comparison to many of the last 20 seasons.

Porky Main and Bill Main shot mallards off the Pelican Lake pass Saturday . . . Mr. and Mrs. Lester Uecker hunted near Herman the opener and reported good luck as they filled their limits easily . . . Ralph Zander returned from Wyoming with a mule deer and an antelope.

As you hunters already know, a week from this Saturday pheasant season opens and again as for years in the past, you as a true sportsman will again have a chance to donate a bird or two or three to the annual Veterans Hospitals, worthwhile and very much appreciated pheasant dinner to our hospitalized veterans. . . . Joe DeCheney, retired game warden from Annandale, will again pick up the birds on Monday October 20th at 4 o'clock . . . A planned hunt where all birds shot will be given to the Veterans Dinner is tentatively set for 10 o'clock a.m. on Monday October 20th and will run until 12 or 1 o'clock . . . Any farmer who would like to give permission for hunting some good size corn fields for this worth while cause can leave your name at Lang's Hardware and Sportshop or with Jim Dahlberg at Central Lumber Co. The two-hour hunt will be well organized and everyone will be welcome to take part . . . This year if you can't donate a bird the opening weekend, lets mark it down on your calendar, Monday, October 20, 10 a.m., and take in the planned hunt. Full particulars next week.

Charlie Melinsky had good luck fishing Crow River last Saturday as he picked up three northerns and one walleye of nice-eating size . . . Ed Rausch and Milt Jensen found duck hunting rather poor north in Grove City the opening weekend in comparison to many years of the past. The big reason was lack of water . . . Charlie Gertgen and Stan Norquist seen quite a number of ducks in the Spicer area but felt the hunting was down considerable according to past years . . . Walt and Glen and Alvin Bakeberg picked up a good meal a-piece on the Schwalbe marsh but felt hunting was definitely down due to low water . . . Duane Klucas, Al Klucas, Cotton McCalla, John Eger, Steve Mertracker, Billy Hansen Jr., Dan Sexton all had pretty fair luck on Rice Lake.

Oct. 8, 1958

During the past week, we had absolutely everything the weatherman could throw at us including rain, high winds, sleet and snow, plus the duck season opener, but that did not deter some of those hardy fishermen who braved all the elements to try their luck against the fish.

Good luck has been had, all week, by the late evening fishermen using flyrods and beetles for pan fish. Northerns have been a biting but at a slower rate than before and a few bass were picked up.

Fishing is far from finished yet and we can look forward to some nice days and evenings on the lake when the Indian summer puts in its appearance, and it should be soon, after the dose of weather we had this past week.

Red Hatrick, Gene Ekness and a friend of Red's from Milwaukee who is spending his vacation here, fished Howard lake Monday morning during the snow storm. They could hardly see the cork for snow, but came off the lake sporting a nice catch of sunfish. Monday a huge pelican spent about four hours on Howard Lake.

It was really a comical looking bird. Bob Eddy said its bill looked bigger than a thousand dollar bill - to most of us that's pretty big.

Timber Dahlberg took his dog "Stormy" duck hunting Friday morning at a well-hunted marsh and before he could fire a shot the dog had retrieved three greenhead mallards that previous hunters had failed to find.

Monday night, October 12, a well attended meeting of the Wright County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs took place at St. Michael where a brief business meeting showed the fact that this year's annual picnic was again a larger financial success than the preceding year.

Also disclosed was the fact that the State of Minnesota has filed action against Addison Carlson to restore the lake shore and bottom of Sugar Lake, Annandale, to its original condition. This is a case whereby a land owner dredged out lake shore and lake bottom to create lake shore lots for sale. It ruined a vast spawning area on Sugar Lake and the game wardens and the Wright County Federation of Sportsmen stepped in with legal action to prevent ruination of the lake.

This case is due for consideration at Buffalo, the latter part of this week. Again, we can be glad that united action by sportsmen has stopped indiscriminate use and waste of our lakes.

The apparent die-off of pheasants all over the area came up for discussion, but with no causes as yet known. The problem was tabled for future discussion.

The Federation also voted financial help to the Hanover club to widen and deepen the access channel to Lake Charlotte.

Wright County Chairman for Ducks Unlimited, Lefty Smith, then showed an interesting movie, "The Hay Lakes Story," in which it showed the restoration of a dry Canadian marsh to a productive waterfowl and wild life area.

The Wright County Federation had already voted a substantial donation to Ducks Unlimited.

Sept. 19, 1963

The Ducks Unlimited membership drive is in full swing now. All waterfowl hunters should join this worthy non-profit organization that buys up and saves wetlands in Canada, where over 80 percent of the American continent's waterfowl are hatched.

Money is used to create dams and more wetlands for waterfowl. Many local sportsmen have already joined for the '63 and '64 season, others have not yet been contacted. If you are interested in joining, contact Timber Dahlberg before October 1.

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