Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn.

September 28, 1998

Waterfowl hunting outlook

It is a season where life changes.

A meshing of pain and pleasure, that, for a duck hunter, can turn from passion to obsession as easy as an autumn leave falls from a tree.

Family activities are missed, meetings rescheduled, vacation time used, relationships stressed, and every available opportunity to hit the slough taken - it's the life of a waterfowler and another season is at hand.

The 1998 waterfowl season in Minnesota opens at noon on Saturday, Oct. 3. Thousands of hunters, young and old, will take to the lakes, rivers, sloughs, and marshes in pursuit of mallards, wood ducks, teal, Canada geese, and a variety of other waterfowl.

Across the midwest, waterfowl numbers are up over long-term averages.

Hunting in the prairie pothole regions of North Dakota, South Dakota, southern Canada, and western Minnesota, where water conditions are good, should be excellent.

In those regions, the bread and butter of duck nesting and reproduction, waterfowling is booming. The so called "good old days" are happening right now.

In other regions, like ours, where water levels on sloughs and marshes are low, duck hunting will be slow to fair.

Locally, water conditions are so poor for ducks that it is a safe bet hunting will not be great. Small shallow potholes and sloughs are prime habitat for ducks, and in our area, most of the potholes are dry and have been for a good chunk of the summer.

It's simple. Ducks can fly, and they just pick up and move to areas where conditions are better.

Also, in our area, we have a big handful of lakes that I call in-betweeners - too deep for puddle ducks and too shallow for game fish.

On some occasions, these lakes can provide good waterfowl action. But most times, the hunting is slow when compared to the action a waterfowler can find in the Dakotas or western Minnesota.

This year, aside from the Crow River and a few other locations, those in-betweeners are the only places left to hunt in our area. Competition will be tough and birds bagged will probably be few.

Scouting adventures to local waterfowl hot spots that I have taken in the past few weeks have not been very encouraging. In fact, the only area where I have seen good numbers of ducks has been two hours west of here in the Clara City-Montevideo area.

Waterfowl numbers there were not great, but I saw 10 times as many ducks as I have seen around here.

For the avid waterfowler who is willing to drive a bit, my suggestion is to head west.

There are still a few evenings left to do some scouting. Get on the road and head west for an hour or two until you start seeing a few ducks, and then get to work on finding a place to hunt. If you can't do that, head to some of the bigger lakes in our area and give them a try.

No matter where you plan on hunting, remember hunting is supposed to be fun. Read and know the regulations, make safety your first priority, and be cautious and courteous on the sloughs and not competitive.

Angus update

To refresh your memory, Angus joined the outdoor team of myself and my 10-year-old lab, Tucker, on July 27.

He's an all black mostly lab with a little spaniel mixed in that I got when he was eight weeks old.

Right now he is pushing five months old and already weighs a whopping 50 pounds. Believe me, although he acts like a pup and is clumsier than a Holstein in a duck boat, he sure doesn't look like a pup anymore.

So far, he has been everything I have expected and hoped for.

The retrieving came built in. He's very birdy and every day proves to me that he is somewhat smarter than a block. That's the good stuff I expected.

There's also a big pile of not so good stuff I expected, but didn't hope for.

To begin with, Angus got through his chewing stage by demolishing the floor in his doghouse. For chewing purposes, he seems to prefer old tennis shoes and just about any type of wood over even the most expensive, liver flavor added, rawhide bone.

Secondly, he has a huge appetite, and if he can chew it and swallow it he probably will, no matter what it is.

Last week, I had Angus and Tucker out in a slough on a training session. To get Angus working in heavier cover, I threw a small chunk of a shelled corn cob into the thickest stuff that was there.

He headed right into the thick cover and worked it well. About 20 minutes later, he regurgitated a small chunk of corn cob right next to my feet.

With the chewing stage kind of over with, he has turned to digging to keep himself busy.

My backyard is proof of that. Spots of black dirt now dot what was kind of a nice lawn.

The list goes on. But, like most of you know, there isn't much you can do with a puppy but let it be a puppy, even though the puppy looks more like a steer.

If I've done one thing right with the pup so far, it's definitely the name. My wife picked the name Angus and it fits him like a leather glove.

Outdoor notes

  • Vote yes on Amendment 2. In Minnesota on Nov. 3, we have a unique opportunity to preserve our fishing, hunting, and outdoor recreation resources for future generations by amending the state constitution.
  • Reports from the area indicated a good turnout but few birds taken during Minnesota's third annual Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day.
  • Be cautious and courteous, not competitive, while hunting this fall.
  • The pheasant season in Minnesota opens Saturday, Oct. 10. Pheasant hunters are reminded that wearing blaze orange is required.
  • Because of the dry conditions we have been experiencing, fall colors this season may be short lived and less dramatic.
  • Be prepared. Preparation is the key to a safe and successful hunting season.
  • Brush up on the ten commandments of firearms safety.
  • Remember to always keep your firearms and ammunition locked and in safe storage when you're not in the field. Ammunition should not be left in unsecure locations, like the dash board of a truck. Be safe, not sorry.
  • The days are getting shorter in a big hurry.
  • Fall provides the best lunker walleye and northern pike fishing of the year. Strap on your waders and don't miss the feeding frenzy.
  • Repay an old debt: take a kid hunting this fall. You'll have fun and so will they.

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