By Chris Schultz Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn. Oct. 30, 2000
Deer hunting opens Sat., Nov. 4
If the white-tailed deer isn't Minnesota's most popular wildlife species, it would be tough to make a guess what is.
In support of that statement, on Saturday, Nov. 4, the opening day of the season, over 500,000 hunters will head to Minnesota's swamps, forests, and fields in search of the elusive and treasured animal.
In many cases and for many hunters, it is just as much of an event as it is a hunt. With the numbers that participate and the excitement generated, the opening weekend of the deer season can be compared to the Minnesota fishing opener.
Most important, and adding to the event, is the relationship with the outdoors that deer hunting creates.
For many people/hunters, it is the one and only time of the year they are out in the field or the woods amidst our natural and wild environment. Hunting season is their time for getting in touch with nature again.
Without the opportunity to hunt deer, would many ever get close to the outdoors? Would they get to listen to and watch a squirrel up close, hear the echo of a raven's call through a northern forest, witness a woodpecker hard at work, or realize and become concerned about conservation?
Although the white-tailed deer is Minnesota's most popular wildlife species, and the hunt is the leading reason why many will take to the outdoors this weekend, deer and deer hunting is much more than just hunting.
If you will be one of the many taking to the outdoors this weekend is search of the wily white-tail, there are many things to know, review, and prepare for.
In Minnesota, in the year 2000, the place to start is the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Web site. The site is a treasure of information on deer hunting in Minnesota.
In today's column, I have included a few articles from the site regarding information on blaze orange, licensing, and deer registration requirements. Those are just a few of the items covered on the site; there is much, much more.
Interactive harvest maps, deer biology, new regulations, hunter density and success rates, and even a section that tells you if your antlerless permit application was selected.
The amount and quality of information is amazing. To get to the site, go to www.dnr.state.mn.us.
If you can't get online, here are a few reminders of things to know and review:
Deer licensing and tagging procedures are a bit different under the new electronic licensing system. Know them and review them in the 2000 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook before you take to the field.
Wear blaze orange. It's required, not just by hunters, but by anyone in the outdoors during the firearms deer season.
Put safety first and practice the 10 commandments of firearms safety. Always keeps the muzzle of your gun pointed in a safe direction, loaded or not. Never pull the trigger unless you are completely sure of your target and what is beyond it. Those are two of them, and you should make sure you know the rest.
Be cautious and courteous in the field, not competitive.
Enjoy yourself and the experience. Getting a deer should not be your only goal of the hunt.
Finally, take a good hard look at your surroundings - I mean the place you hunt. Then, ask yourself what have you done to conserve, preserve, and enhance that wild environment and the things that live within it.
Minnesota and Midwest pheasants
So far, pheasant hunting in parts of Minnesota and the midwest has been excellent.
The Minnesota opener was a boom for my hunting party, and according to reports, it was good for most who gave it a try.
In south-central North Dakota, hunting has also been very good, with bird numbers better than myself and many hunters expected.
In South Dakota, where the season opened a week later than Minnesota's and North Dakota's, hunter success was high and bird numbers excellent. A few hunters I spoke with had an easy time getting their limits and talked about birds getting up in flocks of 75 or more.
One of those hunters was in the northeastern part of the state and not hunting in the traditional south central South Dakota pheasant hotbed.
Iowa's and Nebraska's seasons opened Saturday.
With pheasant hunting now in full swing, and the southern parts of the range still holding more birds, it does look like northern portions of the pheasant range have rebounded from the severe winters of a few years back and are now providing some good bird numbers and good hunting again.
There are two other elements that stand out so far this season.
Number one: conditions are extremely dry across the pheasant range, making it tough on hunters and even tougher on dogs.
Secondly, and a little to my surprise, pheasant hunting is the thing to do again. Hunter participation has been high and personally, I cannot remember seeing more hunters in the field than I have seen this year.
On the Minnesota opener, in Jackson County, the number of hunters in the public area I hunted were near double over last year. On Sunday, the second day of the season, the same held true.
Reports from our area and parts of western Minnesota also noted more hunters out than in previous years. Although many hunters may be complaining a bit about the pressure, it's great to see a resurgence in bird numbers and in hunters.
If you understand the scenario, today, pheasants need hunters just about as much as they need cover to nest in, tree lines to spend the winter in, and food plots to feed in.
For good mid-season hunting, especially when pressure has been high, here's a little tip: remember where the standing corn was on the opening day of the season and go back there now.
Even young roosters are smart enough to head to standing corn when the activity of the hunting season starts. Standing corn is where that bird grew up and is most comfortable. By now, that corn has most likely been harvested and a good share of young roosters probably got pushed out into the adjacent cover. That cover will be the place to hunt.
If you're looking for ducks, head west. On a recent trip to North Dakota, I saw large numbers of ducks throughout much of southern North Dakota and northern South Dakota. If you were driving west on Highway 12, the line seems to be at or near Webster, S.D. East of Webster there aren't many ducks, but west of Webster every pothole is full of them.
The Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club will meet Monday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at the clubhouse.
Congratulations to Dave and Angie Groff of Lil' Angie's Bait and Tackle. Dave and Angie had their first child last week, Minnesota's newest angler, Logan David. He weighted seven pounds, six ounces.
Be prepared for hot weather during the deer hunting season. If the warm weather continues, remember to take extra special care of your harvested deer to prevent any spoilage.
Always remember to ask first before you hunt on private land.
In next week's column, look for some information on the Waverly Gun Club's new rifle and pistol range.
Watch out for deer on the roadways. Deer become more active at this time of year and the risk of car-deer collisions becomes much higher. Be especially cautious around dusk.
Take a kid hunting or fishing, he or she will have fun and so will you.