Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

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

October 11, 1999

Get ready for pheasant opener

Minnesota's 1999 pheasant hunting season opens at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 16.

Hunters from across the state will be lacing on their boots, putting on their hunting vests, and loading up their dogs to go in pursuit of the wily ringneck.

According to reports from the DNR, and based on hunting success from last year, the far southern and southwestern parts of our state carry the most birds and will provide the best hunting.

With that being the case, a good chunk of Minnesota pheasant hunters, including myself, will head in that direction for the opener.

Although the hunting in those parts of the state is expected to be good, there are a few things to look for and be concerned about.

First of all, the pressure will be intense on the opener. In southern and southwestern Minnesota, most of the good pheasant cover and in turn, good hunting spots, are on public lands, wildlife management areas and federal waterfowl production areas.

While there are many of these dotting that part of the state, most of them are not huge in size and can handle only so many hunters at one time. On the opener, these areas will often have hunters lined up at them looking for a line to walk to roust a few birds.

When the pressure is that intense, there are a few things to look for and a few simple rules to follow that can improve your hunting experience.

The first thing, above all else, is safety. Remembering to be patient, cautious and courteous, not competitive, will help to ensure a safe hunt.

A good tip or thing to do at the public area where hunters are lined up on the opener is to just simply be patient and wait it out.

Often, and I've seen it many times, parties of hunters and their dogs get so excited on the opener they will run through that first area or field so fast they will pass up more birds then they flush.

Let them hunt the field first, pick out small areas they didn't cover, and then, when they're done, head out there and cover the area slowly with a fine tooth comb.

If there are birds in the area, you will be surprised how many the first group walked right over.

Secondly, don't be too concerned about the quality of the cover you will be hunting. If you have to head to an area where the cover isn't as good because of hunting pressure, do it.

If you got pushed there by other hunters a few roosters probably got pushed there, too.

Lastly, hunt in very small groups of one or two hunters with a dog, and not in long lines or large groups, and always try to move slow and methodical, letting your dog hit every nook and cranny of cover.

When birds get hit by tons of opening day pressure, they will often sit very tight because they just may not have any other place to go. This is especially true on public areas where there is no adjoining cover or croplands the birds can head to.

A couple other points or good things to know include scouting early and hunting late.

Get out at sunrise and listen and look for roosters in the area you plan on hunting. Look at what cover they're using, where they came from, and where they are heading to.

Then, hunt those areas hard at dusk or the last hour of the day. If the birds were there in the morning, they will most likely be back there in the evening, even if the pressure has been tough all day.

Moving on to places to hunt, the only thing I can really tell anyone who wants to get opening weekend birds in Minnesota is to hunt public lands.

They provide the best cover for birds and in southern Minnesota, they are often the only areas of available pheasant cover. Get yourself a good map that highlights all the public hunting lands and make sure it's a current one.

Thanks to the DNR and organizations like Pheasants Forever, many acres of public wildlife lands have been developed in the last few years and will not be identified on older maps.

With the Minnesota pheasant season upon us, it's time to lace on the boots, put on the vest, load up the dog, and head out for the adventure.

Area lakes hunting and fishing report

Minnesota's regular waterfowl hunting season opened Oct. 2 and hunters from around our area reported modest to poor hunting, with a noticeable lack of wood ducks in the sky.

By most accounts, including my own, this season's first weekend of duck hunting was only fair to marginal. Many hunters in the area reported very few ducks in their bags or in the air.

Most stated a definite decline in the number of ducks seen, especially wood ducks, when compared to other years.

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