Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

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

Oct. 16, 2000

Be aware of dry conditions

Casting a Rapala during October's full moon or laying the bead of your shotgun on a big green head as it sets into your decoys - both are rights of fall and tell us that the season is here and in full swing.

Also, colors are already on the downhill slide, the duck and pheasant seasons are open, fish are in a feeding frenzy, deer are beginning to move and become more active, and the crops are being harvested at a fast pace - these are also standards for the season.

Locally, with fall in full swing, and many taking to the woodlots, fields, and sloughs in search of duck, pheasant, and archery deer, there is one factor to take special note of: dry conditions.

Our area, as well as much of the midwest, is in the midst of a moderate drought.

Many potholes and creeks are bone dry, the Crow River is very low, lake levels are down, and crop and grass fields are extremely dry.

In some areas, I believe the conditions are much worse than people realize.

According to unconfirmed reports, there was a grass fire on a wildlife management area near Hutchinson last week. The fire was apparently started by an all terrain vehicle (four-wheeler).

Although the dry conditions are aiding area farmers with the crop harvest, several farmers who I have spoke with are very concerned and have stated the risk of fire is very high.

Last fall, hunting in northeast Nebraska, conditions were so dry that fires were common. Because of that, landowners limited access, and any type of hunting or outdoor activity was tough.

Also, the amount of dust was incredible. The north and west sides of one farmhouse I noticed were completely covered with a thin layer of dirty, black dust.

This fall, close to home, the conditions aren't that bad. But, they could get there.

In neighboring North Dakota, state agencies had contemplated limiting the hunting seasons due to the risk of fire, and have warned hunters to follow fire safety guidelines.

If you will be doing some hunting, here are a few tips regarding the dry conditions.

­ Keep your vehicle on the roadways or in designated parking areas. Hot mufflers and undercarriages can easily start dry grass on fire.

­ If you smoke, don't light up in the field. Last year, in Nebraska, every landowner I talked with asked if anyone in our party smoked and gave clear warning about smoking in the field.

­ Take the time to check the area you hunted after you're done. Make sure you haven't accidentally started a fire.

­ Take it a little easy on the gravel roads. Slow down when you're driving on the gravel, especially when you're passing a rural or farm home.

­ Pay special attention to your dog. Have an ample supply of water with, check eyes and paws often, and make sure your dog isn't eating piles of dust when riding in back of the truck.

On a final note, enjoy the fall, but please take special consideration of the dry conditions.

Free straps offered for tagging deer

From the Minnesota Deer Hunters Associaton

Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA), in coordination with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), are offering plastic tag straps to hunters, free of charge, for field tagging their harvested deer this fall.

The straps should be available shortly at hunting license vendors.

The 11-inch plastic straps are blaze orange and can be affixed to the animal in the manner prescribed by the state hunting regulations (around the leg bone, antler, or through the ear).

The straps have a simple locking mechanism for securing them to the animal. Each strap has the DNR and MDHA Web site addresses printed on them, and a reminder for hunters to donate to the MDHA's Hides For Habitat program.

These straps, or other devices (such as strings or wires) are needed to affix the tag because of the new Electronic Licensing System (ELS).

Beginning this year, the long tear-off site tag is not included with the license, having been replaced by a license tag that can be generated by the ELS machines.

The new tag is affixed to the strap, string, or wire by peeling off the back and sticking it together, much like a ski lift pass.

The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association developed the strap as a service for deer hunters. Ryan Bronson, the MDHA Operations Manager is hoping the straps catch on.

"Since the tagging system is new, I am afraid many deer hunters are going to forget to carry a string or wire with them to tag their deer in the field," Bronson said. "I am hoping the strap will keep hunters from cutting off their boot laces to legally tag their deer."

Tom Keefe, the DNR's Electronic License System coordinator, sees the straps as a good mechanism for tagging deer. "With any new system, we expect transitional problems," Keefe said. "However, these straps are simple and convenient for hunters, and should make the transition a little smoother."

For information about the new tagging regulations and for ELS vendors, visit the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

For information about MDHA and the Hides for Habitat program, visit www.mndeerhunters.com, or call 1-800-450-DEER.

Outdoor notes

­ The Waverly Gun Club recently made a very nice addition to its grounds and facilities, adding a certified rifle and pistol range. The project was accomplished by dedicated club members with help from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the National Rifle Association. For more information on the range and how to get access and use the facility, contact Russ Johnson at (763) 657-3527. Look for more on the Waverly Gun Club's rifle and pistol range in upcoming columns.

­ With fall moving along, the crops coming off the fields, and the rut starting soon, pay special attention for deer on the roadways. Dusk, or just after dark are when deer are most likely to be on, crossing, or near roadways.

­ Remember to wear blaze orange while hunting small game.

­ The firearms deer hunting season opens in most parts of Minnesota Saturday, Nov. 4.

­ Antlerless deer permits will be drawn and mailed by Oct. 20. If you applied, and don't receive a permit by Oct. 23, you can assume your application was not chosen.

­ Minnesota is seventh in the nation in total number of acres enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, with 1,458,280 acres. Texas is number one with 3,898,136 acres enrolled.

­ Don't compromise on safety this fall.

­ Take a kid hunting or fishing, he or she will have fun and so will you.

­ Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 7. If you will be away from home, remember to complete an absentee ballot before you go.

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