Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

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

October 4, 1999

Looking forward to the pheasant opener

Following a bird dog through acres of brush, grass, and crop fields in pursuit of the ringneck pheasant is something I more than just enjoy.

I, along with many other Minnesotans, have an almost unending passion for the whole affair. From aching legs, to bird dogs gone astray, and beautiful roosters in the air, I love it all.

This year, that passion will be realized again, with the help of a young dog named Angus and good pheasant numbers in some parts of the state. Saturday, Oct 16 is the opening day of Minnesota's 1999 pheasant hunting season.

Nineteen years ago, when I started chasing pheasants, the place to go in Minnesota was far to the west, Lac qui Parle to Ortonville.

I was lucky enough to have a good dog, a dad who was retired, and relatives near a little town called Odessa. My dad and I, along with a few others spent more than 15 straight years heading to Odessa and the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge for the Minnesota pheasant opener.

In the early '80s, the hunting was super, birds would get up in bunches and it was common to flush a couple hundred birds in a day of hunting.

Along with pheasants, geese, and deer, other hunters were also thick, creating kind of a paradise for outdoor camaraderie. The times were great.

The late '80s through 1996 brought fair to good hunting. Some years were great, some weren't.

Overall, the number of birds weren't there compared to the early '80s. The number of hunters also fell.

Then, the winter of 1996 hit. It was severe, and pheasant and deer numbers plummeted. Seeing even one pheasant in a day of hunting was almost difficult.

The pheasant hunters, along with myself, quit heading west, and the entire atmosphere and economy of hunting the pheasant opener in western Minnesota changed.

Today, with a change in times has also come a change in location. Far southern and southwestern Minnesota is the place to go.

Due to good weather, and better cover, bird numbers are high, deer and geese are thick and so are hunters. The outdoor paradise of western Minnesota in the early '80s has seemed to just travel a little bit.

Last season, was my first pheasant opener spent in southwestern Minnesota. I had hunted the area several times before, but never on the opener.

In comparison, the atmosphere is much the same, with the amount of cover, places to hunt, and birds slightly different.

No matter the place or the year, the Minnesota pheasant hunting season will soon be here and those of us with the passion are more than ready.

In next week's column, I'll take a closer look at pheasant hunting in Minnesota today: things to look for, places to hunt, and how to deal with massive opening day hunting pressure in an area where the number of places to hunt is definitely limited.

Area lakes fishing report

Fall has arrived and the fish are biting in good numbers.

Most years, that's very typical. However, so far this fall, the fishing has been extremely good for northern and walleye. Lakes like Ann, Howard, and Waverly have been producing good numbers of fish, and both forks of the Crow River have been busier than a shotgun on the waterfowl opener.

In the last few weeks, anglers in droves have been heading to the various areas of the Crow to nab small walleyes, lunker northern, and an occasional smallmouth bass or crappie.

The bait of choice has been fatheads or casting Beetle Spins. The busiest spot has been a stretch of the South Fork near Mayer.

Other reports have Belle, Washington, and Waconia giving up good numbers of walleyes on live bait in shallow water.

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