Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

Sept. 10, 2001

Don't get discouraged about Minnesota pheasants

Ring-necked pheasant counts are down 50 percent from last year, according to surveys recently completed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

DNR wildlife biologists blame the drastic drop on last years harsh winter and soggy spring.

From an avid pheasant hunter's perspective, the survey results were no surprise. The winter was tough, and nesting conditions in late April though May, and into parts of June were horrible. Although pheasants are a resilient bird and have the ability to bounce back quickly, cold, wet springs significantly hamper hen pheasant's ability to nest and raise broods to maturity.

"To sum it up," said John Giudice, wildlife research biologist with the DNR's Farmland Wildlife Population and Research Group in Madelia, "hunting prospects for Minnesota pheasants are fair to poor this fall."

The pheasant hunting season in Minnesota opens Saturday, Oct. 13 and although the roadside counts indicate a 50 percent decline in numbers compared to last year, there still will be some good hunting in parts of the state this year.

From experience and years of following the roadside count numbers I can tell you they are fairly accurate and do reflect what hunting prospects may be like. However, this year may be a little different.

Some regions of the state, like the far west I think, will still hold some pretty good bird hunting. I have always felt that roadside counts in that area of the state never reflect the true population. Especially in the last two years. In the far west there is ample cover and large tracts of it - much of it is public and open to hunting.

The amount of cover out there, I believe, has increased, and with more cover or habitat, birds along typical roadside survey routes are more difficult to count or get an accurate picture of.

Also, and the bottom line, more habitat equals more birds and more hunting opportunities.

Take a look at the pheasant map in this week's column, and in the next few weeks we'll take a look at the upcoming pheasant season and dig a little deeper into Minnesota pheasant population numbers.

Outdoor notes

­ The Winsted Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will hold its annual banquet Tuesday, Sept. 11 at the Blue Note Ballroom in Winsted. The quacking hour begins at 6 p.m. with feeding at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the door.

­ The Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club will meet Monday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. at the clubhouse.

­ The Winsted Sportsmen's Club will meet Wednesday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. at the Lake Mary clubhouse. The meeting was changed from its usual Tuesday date due to the Winsted Ducks Unlimited Banquet.

­ The application deadline for antlerless permits in Minnesota was Thursday, Sept. 6.

­ Don't forget to purchase your federal duck stamp and your Minnesota state duck stamp. The state duck stamp is available through the Electronic Licensing System, the federal stamp is not. Both stamps can be purchased at area license vendors.

­ The small game and archery deer seasons in Minnesota open Saturday, Sept. 15.

­ Reports from local hunters in pursuit of Canada geese during the early September hunt were good. Most hunters reported at least a few birds in the bag and a good number of birds throughout the area. Hunters in the Lester Prairie and Watertown areas seemed to fair the best.

­ Fall fishing on our area lakes and rivers is starting to heat up. Northern pike are biting on several lakes and the walleye action is just starting to pick up. As the water cools down look for the action to pick up.

Good bets are deep holes or pockets on the Crow River and Isle Bay on Lake Mille Lacs. Isle Bay has been a great producer of large northern pike for me. Work outside weedlines hard casting spoons and then troll the same areas. The casting seems to work the fish out of the dense weed beds.

­ Get yourself and your dog in shape for the fall hunting seasons.

­ The annual Minnesota Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day is set for Saturday, Sept. 15. Details on the hunt are available in the 2001 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Supplement.

­ Make sure your hunting dog has all vaccinations up to date and that you have the appropriate paper work for each vaccination. Canada, and I believe a few states, require proof of vaccinations before your dog can cross the border.

­ To sight in your rifle and get used to your firearms again. Give the new rifle range at the Waverly Sportmen's Club a try.

­ Remember to always properly store and secure your firearms and ammunition. Keep them locked and stored in separate locations. Prevention is the best measure of safety when it comes firearms in the home.

­ The Minnesota regular waterfowl season opens Saturday, Sept. 29. Mark your decoys and check your waders. Leaky waders on opening day can be miserable, and it's always nice to come home with all of your own decoys.

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