Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

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

Sept. 25, 2000

A local duck hunter's dilemma

The 2000 version of Minnesota's waterfowl hunting season opens Saturday, Sept. 30 at noon.

Hunters across the state will be hunkered in sloughs, marshes, lakes, fields and rivers in wait for mallards, teal, wood ducks, Canada geese, and a variety of other waterfowl to appear over decoys within gun range.

In some areas, especially in the far west, and on a few larger lakes like Leech and Winnie, the opening day hunting may be good, even excellent. A few other areas of the state; the southwest and counties like Kandiyohi that have a fair to large number of federal waterfowl production areas, may provide fair hunting.

Locally, in my opinion, the outlook is not as bright, and describing waterfowl hunting prospects with even the word fair may be a bit of a stretch. For most waterfowlers, the hunting in our area will probably not be good.

For myself and other local die-hards, the situation creates a bit of a dilemma.

Do we stick around home, throwing our decoys out in the traditional spots and take our chances, or do we head west to areas like Kandiyohi County where the odds for good hunting are better?

Another option is to pack up and head far west to areas like Lac qui Parle where, according to surveys and reports, conditions are much better and duck densities are much higher.

To let you know, in the past three years, I have tried all three - usually sticking close to home for the Saturday opener and then, heading to Kandiyohi County for the second day of the season, and far west for the rest of my Minnesota waterfowl adventures.

Each year and each location has provided hit-and-miss hunting, depending on the day and the weather, with the far west allowing more hunting opportunities and definitely more ducks in the air.

Kandiyohi County, in the Willmar area, has an abundance of shallow waterfowl lakes and waterfowl production areas. However, that doesn't mean there will be ducks.

In 1998, the hunting in that area was excellent. The hour drive from home was well worth it.

Then, last year, on the opening weekend and for most of the season there was hardly a duck in the sky. This year, reports from wildlife managers and a few waterfowlers say the ducks are back.

Locally, water levels are down, many small potholes are dry, and there just doesn't seem to be many ducks.

This year, I even jumped up my scouting routine a little bit, and in several trips to local waterfowl hot spots, I haven't seen more than a few flocks of honkers and wood ducks in the binoculars.

The only ducky things I have heard, came from a few hunting parties that were out during the youth waterfowl hunt. One group hunting a small slough said shooting opportunities for the kids were okay, but there weren't many ducks in the air.

The other parties I spoke with were on bigger water and said duck numbers were better than last year.

With three locations in mind, the duck dilemma exists again. For me, I'll head west when I get the chance, stick around home for the opener, and like everybody else, hope for better hunting than last year.

Outdoor notes

  • Waterfowl hunters, don't forget about your federal duck stamp. The federal stamp is not part of Minnesota's new electronic licensing system and needs to be purchased separately.
  • Fall colors are appearing quickly in our area, and because of dry conditions, the show may not be as brilliant and will not last long.
  • The Minnesota pheasant hunting season opens Saturday, Oct. 14.
  • The Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club will meet Monday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. at the clubhouse.
  • According to Ducks Unlimited and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports, a record 7.4 million breeding ducks were surveyed in North Dakota this year.
  • The fishing on our area lakes is really starting to pick up, with several anglers reporting good catches of walleye and northern pike on lakes like Collinwood, Waconia, and Washington. While the fishing on lakes has been good, reports from anglers fishing the Crow River say the fishing has been slow and the water clarity is very poor.
  • Take a kid hunting or fishing; he or she will have fun and so will you.

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