By Chris Schultz Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn. Nov. 6, 2000
Deer, ducks, pheasants and fish
If the Department of Natural Resources and other experts were right, the opening weekend of Minnesota's firearms deer hunting season should have been a good one.
The best hunting should have been in the state's central forested regions and transition zones, as well as the far southeast.
To go against this year's high expectations, the deer herd in certain parts of the state's farm belt, like the southwest, were down a bit.
Locally, the firearms deer season in Zone 4A opened Saturday and closed Sunday.
For Zone 4B, the season opens Saturday, Nov. 11 and closes Tuesday, Nov. 14. In our area, the majority of the hunting is usually done on the first weekend, with hunting pressure, on the average, being much lighter the second season.
Just to our east, Zone 3B, in the Watertown and Waconia areas, the season extends through Friday, Nov. 24.
For specifics on season dates and zone boundaries, refer to the pull-out map in the 2000 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook.
All hunters and those using the outdoors are reminded of blaze orange requirements during the firearms deer season, and should be aware of season dates and zone boundaries.
In next week's column, we'll take a closer look at the firearms deer hunting opener and see if expectations were met.
Moving on to ducks, pheasants, and fish: local duck hunting has been poor to almost nothing at all.
My last foray didn't produce a bird in the bag or in the air, and a group of hunters in the Howard Lake area stated they saw a total of four ducks during a morning hunt last week.
A good storm, or some winter-like weather may produce a few late flurries of hunting, and it may not. If it does, the flurry will not last long and hunters will have to be out on the water and in the blinds on exactly the right day.
On a more positive note, pheasant hunting locally and in other parts of the state and midwest has improved with the rain we got last week.
Before the rain, grasslands and other types of pheasant cover were so dry dogs could hardly pick up a scent and the cover easily became worn down. Hunters also had to deal with warm weather and very dusty conditions.
The rain settled the dust and has provided just enough moisture in the cover to give dogs a better shot at finding and flushing birds.
If hunting in the fall is not in your realm of outdoor activities, or you just got tired of dealing with the hot weather we had through most of October, the fishing on our area lakes has been great and continues to be pretty good.
In any year, warm weather or not, October and early November provide some of the best fishing of the year for lunker walleyes and northern pike.
This year, I'm sure because of the warm weather, more anglers opted to give fall fishing a try and delayed packing up their boats and gear.
Reports have Ann, Collinwood, Howard, and Clearwater providing excellent action for walleye.
Trolling or wader fishing - casting Rapalas at night - has been the ticket.
On a final note, it seems the fishing on the Crow River, both the north and south forks, was basically shut down this fall due to very low water levels. Last year, the water was a bit higher and fishing for walleye, northern pike, and even a few smallmouth bass was excellent.
Waverly Rod and Gun Club
In the past months, members of the Waverly Rod and Gun Club, with help and participation from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and National Rifle Association, have made some extensive improvements and additions to their club.
In August, on its grounds a few miles north of Waverly, the club opened a new DNR-certified and NRA-sponsored rifle and pistol range.
Those who already enjoy and actively participate in the sports of rifle and pistol shooting understand the value of a new range in our area. For who those who would like to, but just haven't been able to get into it, the major hurdle of not having a place, or a good place to do it, is now solved.
In recent years, with residential and rural housing growth in our area, it has been increasingly difficult to find areas, ranges, or gun clubs that still provide an area or the opportunity to safely participate in rifle or pistol shooting.
With the Waverly Club investing the dollars and volunteer time to create a new and quality range, that problem is solved and there is now an excellent opportunity for people in our area to enjoy target shooting and the use of their firearms.
The range was designed and constructed to specifications set by the DNR and NRA, and includes large dirt berms, target stands and accessories, shooting benches, and covered and separated pistol shooting stations.
Although the facility is basically done and the DNR has put its blessing on it and helped construct it with a $4,900 matching grant to the club, members are still working on final touches and will continue to improve the facility as time goes on.
Club members held one of their first events at the new range in October - a rifle sight-in, with range officers and assistants available, for deer hunters.
To use the facility on a regular basis, membership to the Waverly Rod and Gun Club is required. Several membership opportunities and packages are available and the prices are more than reasonable in my opinion.
The club meets the first Monday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at the clubhouse.
For more information, call Russel Johnson at (763) 675-3527.
Remember to safely store and lock your firearms and ammunition. Safes designed for firearms are great and provide excellent lockable and secure storage. Trigger safety locks are also an option, and it's a good idea to store and lock your ammunition in a separate location from your firearms.
The Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club will meet tonight at 7 p.m. at the clubhouse.
The rain we got last week was a boost to area pheasant hunters. Also, when the firearms deer season ends, hunting can also be a bit better, because landowners are typically more willing to allow access to their land after the deer season is over.
From my travel across the midwest, I have picked up a few little notes on what we call farmland or land. In Nebraska, they call it ground. In Iowa, they call it ground or farm ground. In South and North Dakota, they call it the range or range land, no matter if it's tilled or not. In Manitoba, Canada, as well as most of North Dakota, land or range is referred to in sections of land and very seldom in acres like we are accustomed to. In most cases, the differences come from the amount and value of the land. In our neck of the woods, land values are higher than in other parts of the midwest, and if things keep going the way they are, soon we will talk about land in the square foot instead of acre.
Be cautious of deer on our roadways at this time of year.
Be courteous and cautious while in the field hunting this fall, and not competitive.
If your deer season is over for the year, take some time to think about conservation. Remember the place you hunted and the habitat and the wildlife you saw there. Then make a commitment to help conserve, enhance, and protect that environment.