By Chris Schultz Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn. Nov. 13, 2000
Local deer hunting opens with a whimper
While hunters in many parts of the northern forested regions of Minnesota were talking about good deer numbers and improved hunting success over previous years, hunters in our area and in other parts of the state's farm region were left scratching their heads.
"We didn't see a deer, and in the Winsted area, and I really think deer numbers are down compared to last year," stated one long-time hunter.
According to the hunter, who didn't want his name mentioned, his party consisted of four hunters and, on an average year. They harvest two deer and see many more. This year, during the Zone 4A season, they didn't see a deer and heard very few shots fired from other hunters in the area.
The weekend was a little better for several other larger hunting parties, but those hunters also reported fewer deer seen and in the bag compared to last year.
In 1999, hunting success in our area took a considerable jump over 1998 and many hunters stated it was the most deer they had seen and the best hunting since record harvest years of 1991 and 1992.
At Joe's Sport Shop in Howard Lake, 84 deer were registered for the Zone 4A season this season, compared to approximately 105 in 99. For both the 4A and 4B seasons, a total of 158 deer were registered at Joe's in 99 and 113 in 98. Typically, a majority of the deer registered at Joe's are done so during the 4A season.
With another mild winter in 1999-2000 and good hunting weather during the first weekend, it's hard to say why the numbers are down in our area.
Right now, we can only scratch our heads and see how the 4B season shapes up. In the next few weeks, the DNR will release harvest totals, and then we can do some comparing to previous years and speculate a bit.
Up north, the case was a bit different. Many hunters I spoke with reported excellent hunting and in some cases, parties filled all of their tags. Park Rapids, Longville, and areas near Bemidji seemed to be hot locations for hunters. All said deer numbers were much improved over last year.
Near Cross Lake in the Crow Wing State Forest, my hunting party bagged a total of three deer, two mid-sized bucks and one adult doe.
We came home with three antlerless tags unfilled and saw fewer deer than last year. In '99, yearling does seemed to be everywhere and I saw a total of 19 deer for the weekend.
This year, I saw four deer, and numbers in our little section of the woods seemed to be down a bit.
Although we didn't see as many deer, hunting pressure probably had more to with that than anything else. Last season, we had good numbers of hunters around us or in adjacent areas. This season, many of those hunters weren't there to keep deer moving.
In next week's column, when we have a better idea how deer hunters fared this season, we'll get into some harvest numbers and I'll tell you my story of the one that got away.
Take a look at the photos in this week's column, and good luck if you still have the opportunity to get out there and pursue the wily whitetail.
The firearms deer hunting season in our area (Zone 4B) ends Tuesday, Nov. 14.
Remember to wear blaze orange if you will be in the outdoors during the firearms deer hunting season.
The Winsted Sportsmen's Club will not meet Tuesday, Nov 14. Due to deer hunting, the regular monthly meeting has been changed to Tuesday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. at Tom's Corner Bar in Winsted.
Waterfowl hunters should take note that the regular Canada goose hunting season in some parts of the state is now closed. Goose hunting in the West Central Zone closed Nov. 5, and in the West and Northwest Zones, closed Nov. 8. For zone boundaries and other information, hunters should refer to the 2000 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Supplement.
Although hunting pressure has been very high this season, pheasant hunting in many parts of the Minnesota and the midwest continues to be good. Last week's snow and rainfall was a big boost to bird hunters and their dogs.
Reports from area duck hunters noted a few divers and northern mallards moving through the area last week, but no big numbers. In general, duck hunting in our neck of the woods is still pretty slow. On the positive side, Canada geese have been flying in good numbers and several hunters reported modest success.
On Nov. 3, a day before the start of the firearms deer hunt, 67,471 firearms deer licenses were processes through the electronic licensing system.
Enjoy the season and the weather. Last week, the cold and snowy weather had a few would-be ice anglers jumping for joy.