Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

Oct. 8, 2001

Waterfowl opener better than expected

The general consensus from waterfowl hunters across our area is that hunting during the first week of the season was much better than expected.

In fact, several hunters in the Winsted/Howard Lake area I spoke with said the hunting was great, and filled their limits both days of the opening weekend.

They noted good numbers of teal, spoon bills, mallards, and wood ducks. They also stated Canada geese were flying in big numbers, and had several geese in the bag.

For me, opening day (or at least a very little part of it - I had a family wedding) was spent walking the south fork of the Crow River. At about 15 minutes after the noon opener, I kicked up a flock of 10 or so wood ducks and bagged two.

Angus proudly retrieved them both, and for what is a typical hunt on the river, I was done for the day. The limit on wood ducks is two daily and on the river wood ducks are typically all you will see.

A few more bends on the river provided only more wood ducks, about 50 seen in total, and with only wood ducks flying and two already in the bag I headed back home to change, get the kids dolled up, please my wife, and leave for what was a fun and very interesting wedding at the Polish National Hall in northeast Minneapolis.

My duck hunting adventures picked up again Monday morning on a slough southwest of Glencoe in Sibley County. The fog that morning made hunting a bit tough, but the ducks were flying and responding to decoys and my call.

For awhile, the fog was so thick I couldn't even see my decoys, more or less a duck in the air.

Then as the fog lifted, the shooting heated up. I ended the morning with two Canada geese, two mallards, two wood ducks, two spoonbills and a tired dog.

Like the rest of the hunters I talked to, the hunting and the numbers of ducks in the air during the first week of the waterfowl season was much better than I expected.

Minnesota's duck hunting season ends Tuesday, Nov. 27. The canvasback season, which opens Saturday, Oct. 13, closes Thursday, Nov. 1.

Minnesota pheasants - head west of southwest

Saturday will mark the start of Minnesota's 2001 pheasant hunting season.

Hunters and dogs will be bustling though sloughs, fields and thickets across Minnesota's pheasant range.

Shooting hours begin at 9 a.m. and end at sunset daily. The bag limit is two cocks daily and six in possession. The season ends Dec. 16.

Regarding Minnesota pheasants, if you're a reader of this column you know in the past few weeks I have taken a good look at the DNR's August roadside count numbers for pheasants.

The numbers indicate a 50 percent decline in pheasants this year when compared to last year, and I noted that because of late hatch and a few other factors, believe that pheasant hunting in Minnesota will be better than the numbers indicate.

I also looked at the question of where the best places to hunt in Minnesota are, especially when bird numbers are supposed to be down.

First of all, although bird numbers are down from last year because of a tough winter and wet spring, I do believe there are more birds out there than the roadside count numbers indicate, and more than biologists and hunters expect.

I'm basing my opinion on years of pheasant hunting across Minnesota, knowledge of the roadside counts, a late hatch by pheasants this season, and the fact that roadside counts showed a disproportionate number of roosters to hens.

Basically, this August when the roadside counts were done, a higher number of roosters compared to hens was counted because many of those hens were still sitting on nests and rearing broods.

Also, many of the duck hunters I've spoken with, along with sharp-tailed grouse hunters in the Dakotas, have said there are an awful lot of young pheasants out there. One hunter noted the pheasants were still so young you couldn't tell the difference between the roosters and the hens.

Hopefully, and we'll find out this weekend, I am right.

With that out of the way, like a rooster catching a November wind, let's move on to where the best places to hunt pheasants in Minnesota will be this weekend, and probably for most of the season.

To answer the question quickly, the far western part of the state will hold the most birds and the best hunting. From Morris to Canby will be the best. Pheasant numbers in that range late last fall were super, and if pheasants were forced into a late hatch, there is more cover in that region than in any other area of Minnesota's pheasant range.

When it comes to pheasants, especially when prospects are down, cover is the key. That area again simply has more cover and will provide more pheasants and more hunting opportunities.

Other regions of the state, like the Windom and Jackson area, will provide some good hunting. But, the wet spring would have a greater impact because there is less cover, and much of that cover is very low ground that may have stayed wet into July, not giving pheasant hens much chance to renest.

Finally, in our area there will also be some fair hunting. The birds will be young and probably only found in area of very good and ample cover. The area of marginal cover that produced birds during years with an easy winter and dry spring probably didn't produce many birds this year.

If you're heading out, be safe, not sorry. Expect to see young birds, and don't pull the trigger unless you're sure it's a rooster.

Outdoor notes

­ The Winsted Sportsmen's Club will meet Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Lake Mary Clubhouse. Members are asked to please be on time to hand in raffle tickets. The drawing will be at 8 p.m. and the public is welcome.

­ The firearms deer hunting season in Minnesota opens Saturday, Nov. 3. With the season being less than a month away many hunters will be looking for a spot to sight in their rifle or shot gun. In our area, the Waverly Sportmen's Club and it's range provides the best opportunity to do that. The club and range is located just northeast of Waverly on Wright County Road 9. Rifle site in dates are set for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 20, 21, 27 and 28. For more information call Adrian Duske (763) 658-4586.

­ Antlerless deer permits will be issued very soon. Lucky hunters receiving one should know within a week or two.

­ If you're traveling to Canada or a different state to hunt this fall and are bring with a dog, make sure the dog has all appropriate vaccinations, is in good health, and that you have proof or certification that the dog has received the vaccinations. You will need to provide the correct documentation if asked.

­ The 20-day state canvasback season in Minnesota opens Saturday, Oct. 13.

­ The evening waterfowl hunt began Sunday. Hunters can now hunt waterfowl until sunset.

­ Fall colors are at peak in our area. Now is the time to get outside and enjoy them. A big wind or storm could end it all in a hurry.

­ Area farmers are just getting started on the corn and bean harvest, and it's expected that only a small percentage of the crops will be off the fields by the time the Minnesota pheasant season opens Saturday, Oct. 13.

­ If you are looking for a host of outdoor information go to the outdoor section at this newspaper's web site at www.herald-journal.com/outdoors. At the site there is a link to www.terraserver.com.

The terraserver site is an aerial photo site where you can get an aerial photo of just about any location in the midwest.

­ With hunting season in full swing, take a hard look at your dog and give the pooch a good check over. Pay special attention to feet and pads, toe nails, ears, eyes and the under belly.

­ Make sure you are properly storing your firearms and ammunition. They should be stored and locked in separate locations and completely unaccessible by children.

­ If you are a hunters that loves to travel to other states, like North and South Dakota, to hunt, you need to start paying close attention to proposed new regulations in those states for out of state hunters.

At this time hunting groups in North Dakota are strongly urging the North Dakota Legislature to limit the number of outstate waterfowl hunters.

­ Don't forget about fishing this fall. Fall can be the best time of year to catch lunker walleye and northern pike on our area lakes. In a brief stint of fishing last week during the October full moon, I picked up some dandy walleyes on the Crow River.

Although the river is very low right now, deeper holes or pockets are providing some fish. The best part of the adventure was the brilliance of the full moon gleaming off the river.

­ Take a kid hunting or fishing, he or she will have fun and so will you.

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