Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

Sept. 23, 2002

The ducks are back, waterfowl season opens Sat.

Draw a north to south line some where in western Minnesota, maybe around Alexandria, west of the line conditions are dry and not prime for ducks. East of the line, conditions are wet, potholes carry water, and conditions for waterfowl are good.

In our area, conditions for waterfowl seem to be excellent and we may finally have a season of hunting when the ducks move back east from the Dakotas.

A few years ago when we were in the duck doldrums, one of the reasons was the prairie potholes of North and South Dakota were full of water and, in turn, the states were flush with ducks.

For this year anyway, it seems the tables have turned, and hopefully we will have an excellent season of local and statewide duck hunting.

At this time, a week before the regular opener, our area is teaming with ducks and the place to be for the opener may be right in your back yard.

Personally, I've seen more local ducks than I have in many years. Other reports also indicate good numbers of ducks.

One local waterfowl enthusiast said he sees hundreds of birds every morning on his drive to work and is incredibly excited for the start of the season.

Aside from birds moving our way due to dry conditions on the Dakota prairies, the wet spring and summer we had were very conducive to local waterfowl reproduction.

Small cornfield potholes were full of water and the larger lakes that I call in-betweeners carried more water, providing better waterfowl nesting and brood rearing conditions.

The name in-betweeners comes from lakes that are too deep for ducks and not deep enough for fish. Needless to say, our area has many of these.

However, the in-betweeners had enough water in them this year to fill and flood back water areas and spur more vegetation growth, which were huge benefits to waterfowl.

As the opener approaches, only time and the efforts of diehard duck hunters will tell how the 2002 Minnesota waterfowl hunting season shapes up.

One final note before for I jump into a few points of hunting safety, right now the ducks seem to be pretty spread out in our area and most small potholes still have water in them.

But, those potholes are starting to dry out and the ducks are starting to concentrate on bigger sloughs and waterfowl lakes.

If those small potholes continue to dry out and the ducks become more concentrated, the local hunting could be super.

Here are a few hunting safety and waterfowl hunting items to remember:

­ Affix to your license and sign state and federal waterfowl stamps.

­ Motorized decoys are not allowed for use the first week of the season.

­ Canvas backs may not be hunted in Minnesota this season.

­ Bring along bug spray and mosquito netting.

­ Don't overload your boat, and make sure you and anyone else in the boat is wearing a personal flotation device.

­ Make sure you are HIP certified. Take a look at your license-it will tell you.

­ More decoys doesn't't mean more birds. Preseason scouting, blind location, decoy placement, camoflague, weather, proper ethics, and safety have a lot more to do with a successful hunt than making sure you have more decoys than anyone else on the lake does.

­ Don't mix in any lead with your steel shot.

­ Pattern your shotgun before the season starts.

­ Spend some time studying duck identification.

­ Take the time to read the 2002 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook and Waterfowl Supplement.

­ On the opener, Saturday, Sept. 28 shooting hours are from noon to 4 p.m. On Sunday, Sept. 29, the morning shoot starts with hunting starting at one-half hour before sunrise and ending at 4 p.m.

On Oct. 5 through out the rest of the season shooting hours are extended to sunset.

­ Good luck and have a safe and enjoyable hunt.

From the DNR website

Food shelf, landowners to accept CWD-tested venison

Venison from deer culled for Chronic Wasting Disease testing in the Aitkin area will be distributed to interested landowners and a food shelf after testing is completed.

The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, along with Farmers and Hunters to Feed the Hungry, arranged a cooperative agreement with the Second Harvest Food Shelf to distribute up to 10,000 pounds of venison from deer taken in the Aitkin area that do not test positive for CWD.

Two area meat processors have agreed to process the carcasses and hold the venison until test results are available. Meat from deer that do not test positive for the disease will be released and distributed.

Landowners who allowed Department of Natural Resources sharpshooters on their property are also eligible for venison, according to Dave Schad, DNR incident manager for the Aitkin culling operation.

"Knowing that the venison will be eaten makes this difficult task a little easier," Schad said. "We are very pleased that MDHA and FHFH were able to make these arrangements."

Last week, the DNR began killing and testing deer in a nine-square-mile area around a farm where a captive elk tested positive for CWD.

As of Tuesday morning, DNR conservation officers and Wildlife Division staff had taken 55 deer from the surveillance area. Tests from samples taken last week have been shipped to a USDA-certified laboratory. Results are expected in several weeks.

"The operation is going very well," Schad said. "We are getting very good cooperation from landowners. Generally, residents in the area have been very supportive of the effort."

Aside from the sampling effort, the DNR will rely on archery and firearms hunters to provide deer for sampling in the Aitkin area. Current plans call for testing 600 hunter-harvested deer in Permit Area 154, which encompasses the Aitkin area.

The DNR still plans to sample more than 5,000 deer from 15 permit areas around the state during the hunting season.

In addition, hunters are asked to submit deer harvested in Permit Area 154 to the DNR for testing. Hunters may remove the head of the deer (leaving about six inches of the neck) and submit it to the DNR area wildlife office in Aitkin. Full carcasses will also be accepted at the office.

If the deer head cannot be brought in right away, it should be refrigerated or put on ice in a cooler until it can be brought to the DNR's Aitkin office. Hunters can contact the Aitkin office to make arrangements to drop off a sample by calling (218) 927-6915.

Hunters will be able to use intensive harvest permits to take up to three additional antlerless deer in Permit Area 154. Because Permit Area 154 was recently added to the list of areas where intensive harvest permits will be available, it does not appear on the list in the 2002 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook.

Hunters are being asked to take advantage of management and intensive harvest permits to enable more CWD testing and to help keep the state's deer population in check.

"Managing deer populations at goal densities is an important part of maintaining a healthy deer herd," said Steve Merchant, DNR forest wildlife program leader. "We rely heavily on hunters to help do that."

From the DNR website

DNR asks deer hunters for help in upcoming season

This fall, hunters will be an important part of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' efforts to detect Chronic Wasting Disease in the state's wild deer herd.

In addition to volunteering deer for testing in selected sampling areas, hunters are being asked to take advantage of management and intensive harvest permits to help keep the state's deer population in check.

"Managing deer populations at goal densities is an important part of maintaining a healthy deer herd," said Steve Merchant, DNR forest program leader. "We rely heavily on hunters to help do that."

In the Aitkin area (permit area 154), where CWD was recently discovered in a captive elk, archery hunters will be able to use intensive harvest permits to take up to three additional antlerless deer beginning Sept. 16. Because permit area 154 was recently added to the list of areas where intensive harvest permits would be available, it does not appear in the 2002 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations handbook.

Intensive harvest permits are also available in 40 other permit areas statewide.

Archery hunters in area 154 are being encouraged to submit their deer for CWD testing, provided they identify exactly where the deer was harvested. Archers in this permit area who take an adult deer and are willing to submit it for testing should, after registering their deer, remove the head with about six inches of the neck still attached and bring it as soon as possible to the Aitkin Area Wildlife Office at 1200 Minnesota Avenue South.

If the head cannot be brought in right away it should be refrigerated or put on ice in a cooler until it can be brought to the Aitkin office. Hunters may call the Aitkin office at (218) 927-6915 to make arrangements to drop off a sample.

Current plans call for testing 600 hunter-harvested deer in permit area 154. In addition, 360 samples will be collected from adjacent permit area 247, which will replace permit area 242 in November's testing. The DNR still plans to sample more than 5,000 deer from 15 permit areas statewide.

Statewide, the number of applications for antlerless deer permits, which were due Sept. 5, is close to past years. Although applications for permits that allow hunters to harvest deer of either sex were down about 10 percent this year, Tom Keefe, the DNR licensing supervisor, said the decrease follows a long-term trend.

"We're seeing more hunters who are taking advantage of intensive harvest tags, which can be purchased after the antlerless deer permit deadline," Keefe said.

Due to high deer populations statewide, the DNR offered a record number of antlerless permits this year. When permits available exceed the number of applications, management and intensive harvest permits are made available.

More than 202,000 hunters applied for the 363,765 antlerless deer permits available this year. Last year, hunters applied for 225,279 permits and the DNR offered 284,210 permits.

Intensive harvest permits allow hunters to take up to three additional deer and can be purchased for $13.50 each at more than 1,800 statewide Electronic Licensing System vendors and the DNR's License Center at 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul.

Outdoor notes

­ The Internet is a great tool in planning your next hunting trip. From detailed map and aerial photos to purchasing a Minnesota or out of state license-it can all be done on the web. To get started go to my web site at www.herald-journal.com/outdoors and follow the links.

­ Several readers have asked me if I use motorized or spinning wing decoys for duck hunting. The answer is no and probably never.

I look at it this way, if no other hunter on the lake had a motorized decoy would I need one? No, I probably wouldn't. Motorized decoys aren't needed to decoy and harvest ducks, they are just another tool to get waterfowl hunters to compete with each other more than they already do.

In the battle, the guys with the most money and not the teenager just getting started will win again.

Finally, if I were the only hunter on the lake, and my decoy spread was the only spread on the lake would a spinning wing decoy get me more ducks or more ducks than I can legally harvest? No, it probably wouldn't.

­ The Minnesota pheasant hunting season opens Saturday, Oct. 12.

­ The Minnesota firearms deer hunting season opens on Sat. Nov. 9. Currently, license sales are down compared to last year.

­ Make sure you get your dog checked by a vet and all vaccinations are up to date before plan on traveling to another state or Canada to hunt this fall.

­ Is your body ready to walk through miles of pheasant cover or drag a bag of decoys through a cattail slough?

­ If you are planning to hunt in North Dakota this fall, be advised that you will not be able to purchase your North Dakota hunting license over the counter at a convenience store. Non residents hunting in North Dakota must purchase their license through the North Dakota Game and Fish Department - at one or their offices, via the telephone or online.

­ Ken Durdahl of Howard Lake, the current State Chairmen for Minnesota Ducks Unlimited, will be featured on the KARE 11 TV show Minnesota Bound with host Ron Schara sometime in October.

­ Reports from Minnesota's Youth Waterfowl Hunting Day were excellent. Local hunters, including Leonard Kieser of Winsted, said the kids they hunted with had a great time and the duck numbers were super. The hunt was held Saturday, Sept. 14.

­ When your in the field, woods, or slough this fall take some time to look around you. Be aware of the resources you are in and think of what you can do to keep it that way and make it better.

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