Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

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

December 28, 1998

Be wary of thin ice

Joe's Sport Shop in Howard Lake, a very reliable source for information on local ice fishing and ice conditions, reported that as of Wednesday, Dec. 23, most of Howard Lake carried three to four inches of good solid ice and anglers were starting to make their way out to do some fishing.

Joe's also noted that the lake had just recently iced over, and that although the bays and majority of the lake may have three to four inches of good ice, the entire lake, especially the deep hole in the middle of the lake, may not have three to four inches of ice.

On Howard, it is common for the middle of the lake to freeze over and develop ice at a much slower pace than other parts of the lake.

In fact, due to water, weather, and wind conditions that is a common factor on most larger lakes. A few years back on Howard, most of the lake had been covered with ice for more than a week, while a small hole in the center of the lake was still steaming with open water.

Other reports from the area have a few small houses out on Little Waverly, and a few anglers drilling holes on three to four inches of ice on Dog and Ida lakes.

With the holiday week here and hundreds of anglers ready and willing to hit what probably will be only five to seven inches of ice, we need to take some special care and watch out for each other.

Be aware that ice conditions vary from lake to lake, from one part of a lake to another, and sometimes, from one foot to the next.

Ice, especially early ice, is never completely safe.

See Howard Lake freeze-up and ice-out dates

Minnesota firearms deer harvest increases in 1998

From the DNR

Results from the 1998 firearms deer season show that Minnesota hunters harvested 142,000 deer, a 12 percent increase from the 127,000 deer taken by firearms hunters in 1997, the Department of Natural Resources reported this week.

The 1998 harvest was the seventh highest ever recorded in Minnesota.

The improved hunting was expected as a result of the very mild winter last year and the continuing recovery of northern deer herds from losses the previous two winters.

Also, crop harvests were largely completed prior to the season in most areas. That provided less escape cover for deer in agricultural areas. There was generally favorable weather throughout the season, especially on weekends when most hunting activity takes place.

Harvest increases were highest in the northeast, where harvests were up 59 percent from 1997. Most of this area was restricted to bucks-only hunting for the third consecutive year. Dave Schad, who oversees the DNR's deer management program, said DNR wildlife managers were very encouraged by the number of deer that hunters were seeing and shooting this fall.

"While we certainly are not back to where we were prior to the two consecutive severe winters, the increase in buck harvest confirms that there has been significant recovery taking place," Schad said.

He attributed this recovery to the restrictions on harvest of antlerless deer the DNR has implemented, and the remarkably mild and relatively snow-free winter last year.

"The severity of last winter was the lowest we have ever recorded, and the northern deer herd obviously benefitted," added Schad. Harvests also increased in the east-central (22 percent) and northwest (10 percent) portions of Minnesota.

Deer harvest generally declined in the south. Twin Cities metro area harvest dropped 12 percent from last year, while the west and southwest showed a 5 percent drop, and the southeast a 1 percent decline. These declines likely reflect lingering effects of the severe blizzards two winters ago and aggressive antlerless permit quotas and harvests in recent years.

"Harvest in some areas of the southwest was actually higher than we expected or would have liked," Schad said. He indicated that antlerless permit quotas were reduced by 18 percent in this area of the state in an attempt to reduce harvest. "Deer populations have been reduced in much of this area. We will be taking a closer look at populations in this area of the state to determine the need for further harvest restrictions next year," Schad said.

Some archery and muzzleloader seasons are still underway in Minnesota. Final harvest figures for these seasons should be available in early 1999.

Outdoor notes

  • Look for more info and reports from bait shops on local ice fishing and ice conditions in next week's column.
  • Pay special attention to lakes in our area, like Winsted and Little Waverly that are aerated. Locations where aeration systems are in operation are now, or will be, very well marked. Look for the thin ice signs.
  • With the cold weather finally arriving, take a good look look at your pets. Check the nose, feet, tongue, and any other exposed areas that may be harmed or injured by the cold weather.
  • If you still have the hunting bug, the Iowa and Nebraska pheasant hunting seasons are still open and the ruffed grouse season in Minnesota doesn't close until Dec. 31.
  • I hope you have enjoyed reading this column throughout the year and I wish all of you a very happy New Year.

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