By Chris Schultz Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn. November 16, 1998
It's a busy time outdoors
It's been busy. Firearms deer hunting, pheasant hunting, late season ducks, and fall fishing - there are so many choices right now that a typical outdoor enthusiast can easily be found in a state of confusion.
As you can see from this week's column, the opening weekend of the firearms deer hunt in our area was fair, and according to the Schmidt family, fall fishing has been good.
For me, the past couple of weeks have been a blur of outdoor activity.
I recently returned from an upland gamebird hunting trip in northern Nebraska, have tried to wet a line a few times for lunker fall walleyes, spent some time chasing pheasants and ducks in our area and in western Minnesota, and have been in a rush trying to get prepared for the second weekend of the firearms deer hunt in our area.
Rush seems like the appropriate word. When I've been in the field, I'm rushing to keep up with Angus, my six-month-old lab, and Tucker, my 10-year-old lab, is rushing to keep up with me.
The opening weekend of the firearms deer hunt in Minnesota was a good one, better than last year, according to reports from across the state.
The numbers aren't in yet, but hunters in northern Minnesota did much better than what was expected.
However, that was not the case in our area.
Joe's Sport Shop in Howard Lake registered 65 deer for the first weekend. While many of those registered were very nice bucks, that number is down considerably from the 105 registered in the first weekend last year.
The weather was fair for hunting on the opener, but several hunters I spoke with said deer were tough to come by and those harvested or seen were sitting very tight.
In 1997, Joe's registered 66 deer for the second weekend. With good weather, and low numbers the first weekend, look for that number to be higher this year.
The second season of firearms deer hunting in our area (Zone 4) runs Nov. 14 - 17. I plan on hunting in the Lester Prairie area and will let you know how things went in next week's column.
On a very bright note, pheasant hunting in McLeod and Wright Counties has been very good.
Hunters are not flushing large numbers of birds, but with good dog work in areas of good cover, limits of birds for small groups of hunters have been common.
I've been out in our area on two occasions and on each hunt have taken my two-bird limit and have easily flushed over a dozen birds. When the firearms deer hunt ends and more private land becomes available for area pheasant hunters, look for some good bird hunting.
While the hunting has been good in the fields and wood lots, the story has been different on the lakes and sloughs.
Area duck hunters who I have spoken with are still wondering what has happened to the northern flight of ducks.
Reports from western Minnesota say the fall flight has been in full swing and the hunting has been great. Also, large numbers of Canada geese have been migrating through our area.
On Friday morning, well over 200 geese were on Winsted Lake. But, the ducks, divers, and northern mallards are still up north or have passed to the west or right over us without notice.
At this time, many of the smaller lakes and sloughs are covered with ice and when and if the northern ducks do come through our area, they will move through in a big hurry.
Putting the shotgun down and picking up the rod and reel, although many anglers have not been taking advantage of the fall feeding frenzy, the action has been fantastic.
Anglers on Howard and Waconia Lakes are nailing big northerns and one group of walleye nuts I spoke with has been having the best walleye fishing of the season on Belle Lake near Hutchinson.
The next few weeks, just before freeze-up, is the best time of year to nab a lunker walleye.
Anglers wading in shallow rocky areas on good walleye lakes are almost guaranteed fish. Casting Rapalas in four to five feet of water in the evening has been the ticket.
There's been a flurry of activity, and the time to go is now. Don't miss it - soon the ground will be covered with snow and the lakes with ice.
- Remember to wear blaze orange while outdoors. The firearms deer hunt in our area ends Tuesday, Nov 17. But, hunters and others should also be reminded that all blaze orange requirements also apply during the muzzleloader season Nov. 28 - Dec. 13.
- It was reported that a young hunter, hunting on Flag Island on Lake of the Woods, bagged a 216-pound, 28-point buck on the opening day of the Minnesota firearms deer hunt. The buck was first said to carry 33 points on his rack and may be rescored from 28 to possibly 30.
- The DNR reported the 1998 Minnesota bear harvest was the second highest on record.
- Remember and review the 10 commandments of firearms safety.
- With many of the smaller lakes and sloughs iced over, look for the larger lakes in our area to become covered with ice very soon. Remember that ice, especially early ice, is never safe.
- Be prepared for winter. Pay special attention to your pets. Make sure their houses are properly insulated and they are out of the wind.
- Enjoy the outdoors for the remainder of this fall and please take some time to think about conservation.