By Chris Schultz Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn. October 18, 1999
Ducking hunting doldrums
Where are all the ducks at?
That's the question myself and many other Minnesota waterfowl hunters have been asking this fall.
Reports on duck hunters from across the state have all stated basically the same thing, poor hunting and not many birds, if any, in the air. The only fair to good reports I have heard, have come from hunters in the far western part of the state, near Madison and Ortonville.
During the week, the Star Tribune reported that hunters in the southwest, near Jackson, were getting ducks and also bagging a few geese.
The day before that report came out, I was down in the Jackson area waterfowl hunting and the action was incredibly slow. My partner and I saw a total of maybe 20 ducks, didn't shoot a shell, and came home completely disappointed. We were hunting some prime waterfowl areas and did quite a bit of driving and still didn't see any ducks. There were geese in the area, but nothing compared to last season at this time.
We went down there with the assumption the ducks had to be somewhere, because they're sure aren't many in our neck of the woods. We were wrong, and on the way down, probably met a few other waterfowl hunters heading north in search of ducks.
For the most part, and with only one exception, the duck hunting has been slow no matter where I have tried it.
On the opener, southwest of Glencoe in Sibley County, the hunting was very good. There were a lot of ducks in the air and a good number of hunters. Myself, along with Angus and three other hunters, including Brad Danielson, Gregg Machemehl and his son, Ben, all of Lester Prairie, had good shooting. We bagged a total of nine ducks, including mallards, teal, wood ducks, and spoonbills. We had many opportunities to bag a few more ducks, but our shooting was of the "we'd rather see 'em then hit 'em variety."
The next day, hunting a small and usually very productive waterfowl production area near Lake Lillian, the action was more than slow. I saw only a few ducks, had no ducks decoy, and the only bird in the bag was a lone Canada goose taken by another party of hunters. There was a lack of shooting throughout the entire area and the morning was basically quiet, even though there were quite a few hunters around.
Last year, this area, which is about an hour west, was a hot spot for waterfowling.
A few other outings not far from home, yet in very good waterfowl areas, produced the same results-very few ducks in the air and none in the bag.
Getting back to the question of where are the ducks, is getting tough to answer.
We could all assume there is a large number of waterfowl held up in Canada or large numbers of ducks are taking advantage of excellent conditions in the central and western parts of the Dakotas. If that isn't the case, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must be way off on the total number of ducks estimated to be in the air this fall.
In Minnesota, for the rest of this season anyway, we can only hope that bad weather will come in short spurts, pushing ducks into the state in bunches, and not all in one shot, riding one big storm. That's assuming there are ducks to the north of us, held up in Canada.
My next waterfowl adventure is planned for this week. A group of us will be heading to the far western part of the state near Madison. Ducks or not, I'll let you know how the hunting was.
Area lakes hunting and fishing report
With the waterfowl hunting slow, many outdoor enthusiasts have cased up their shotguns and pulled out their fishing gear.
Reports from around the area say angler activity has been high and the fish have been biting.
The hottest spot continues to be the Crow River, with anglers fishing with Beetle Spins, nightcrawlers and fathead minnows, catching good numbers of walleye and northern pike on both the north and south forks. A few anglers have also reported occasional catches of smallmouth bass and large catfish.
Joe's Sport Shop in Howard Lake reported anglers on Howard are finding excellent action on walleye and northern; and that the lake has been busy with quite a few anglers wetting a line.
Joe's also noted the archery deer season is off to a good start, with nine deer registered so far.
- The Winsted Sportsmen's Club and the Lake Mary Homeowners Association recently teamed up on a walleye stocking project in Lake Mary. The two groups stocked 2,000 walleye fingerlings into the lake on Sat. Oct. 3.
- Minnesota's firearms deer season opens on Sat. Nov. 6. Those who were chosen to receive antlerless deer permits should receive them in the the next week or two.
- Everyone using the outdoors at this time, and especially during the firearms deer season, is reminded to wear some type of blaze orange clothing while outdoors. Small game hunters are also required to wear at least one article of blaze orange clothing above the waste while hunting. For more information on blaze orange requirements, refer to the 1999 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook.
- Deer become much more active at this time of year and we need to start looking out for them on the roadways. Look out for deer on the highways and in the ditches, especially at dawn and dusk.
- Store your firearms and ammunition in safe and secure locations. Good options are gun safes or store and lock your firearms and ammunition in separate locations.
- To get a good look at your hunting spot, jump on the Web and head to www.terraserver.com. At this Website you can view an aerial photo of just about any spot in the United States and Canada.
- Please review and read the 1999 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook before you take to the field this fall.
- With the fall fishing in full swing, and to only get better as the season moves on, get out your waders and do some night fishing. Clear bright nights with a full moon are the best. Fish with Rapalas in shallow water and rocky or gravel areas for the best walleye action. It's your best bet to nab a lunker.
- Angus has been doing well so far this fall, even though his energy level is high enough to light an entire city. The pace he likes to move at could make pheasant hunting a bit interesting this year. I hope my lungs and legs can hold out.
- In next weeks column, look for some info on the upcoming firearms deer season and a report on the Minnesota pheasant opener.
- Remember to be cautious and courteous, and not competitive, while in the field this fall. You will have a better time and so will everybody else.