Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

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

December 6, 1999

Another warm start to winter

In our neck of the woods you grow up with, get used to, and almost expect cold, blustery Novembers, Thanksgiving snowfalls, and early to mid-December ice fishing.

It's all a part of Minnesota and living in a northern climate.

However, this year, and in fact for the second straight year, winter has been late in arriving.

Last year, lakes in our area didn't freeze over until on or near Dec. 20. Ice fishing really didn't get going until well after Christmas.

I believe on Dec. 1, 1998, we also set a record high temperature for December with 68 degrees. Also, I remember pheasant hunting on the last day of the season in a t-shirt. It was an amazing fall.

This year, TV weather people have been reporting that we just had the warmest November on record and that this is latest we have gone into December in the past 18 years before the temperature has dipped below freezing.

For me, even though this is the second straight year, I'm still a little confused. I'm used to late season pheasant hunting in snow and sub-zero windchills, writing warnings to my readers of thin and dangerous ice conditions, sneaking out on to the ice as it thickens for a few early ice walleyes, and getting geared up for a long winter.

This season, I have yet to track a pheasant through the snow, feel the pain from cold toes and fingers, or even put on a pair of long underwear.

Actually, as I'm writing this column, it's a balmy and warm 48 degrees outside and the windshield on my truck was covered with a heavy dew, not frost.

I guess the big question is when will winter arrive and when will our weather patterns get back a little closer to normal?

It's a big question, and I don't have an answer. I still feel a little confused, but I'm not complaining.

Moving on, Minnesota's duck hunting season closed Tuesday, Nov. 30 and, by most accounts, the skies above our area lakes were pretty much empty for a majority of the season. There were a few periods of good to poor hunting when ducks were moving through the area, but very few.

In general, and although continental waterfowl populations were the highest in 20 years, dry conditions in our area and the very mild October and November weather kept ducks away and created what many local waterfowlers are calling the worst duck hunting season in memory.

Minnesota's pheasant hunting season closes Dec. 19 which gives hunters only two full weekends left to roust a few roosters.

Although the hunting in our state has been very good this year, many pheasant enthusiasts are still complaining about dry conditions.

Just before Thanksgiving, I headed out to the Ortonville area with three other hunters for a day of late season pheasant hunting. The four of us with three dogs managed to bag four beautiful roosters and put up a smattering of hens and a few jumpy roosters.

We were happy with the four birds, but the ground conditions were dry enough to make it very difficult for the dogs to scent birds and hunt effectively for an entire day.

For those who still plan on heading for a late season pheasant hunt, a wet snow or a good rainfall would make hunting much more enjoyable.

Fishing

Many area anglers still have their boats out and are finding some excellent open water fishing.

According to reports, lakes Waconia, Howard, and Big Waverly have been producing good catches of walleye and both forks of the Crow River are still producing fish.

Although the action has slowed on the river, anglers are still heading out in pretty good numbers. Last week, I counted nine vehicles parked off one bridge on the south fork.

On a final note, many of the sloughs and potholes in our area are beginning to freeze over and even a few of the smaller lakes are beginning to carry ice on the edges. The freeze-over has started, and if the weather ever does get good and cold, it won't take long and our lakes will be covered with a sheet of ice and I will finally be warning readers about dangerous and thin ice conditions.

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