Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

Oct. 14, 2002

The duck-loving dog

It's hard to name a past time, sport, or outdoor endeavor that involves more passion than waterfowl hunting.

Waterfowl hunters are a breed of their own. Their desire to get wet and muddy, and willingness to put all other matters other than hunting on the back burner is second to only one. The desire and passion of a waterfowl hunting, duck retrieving dog.

The desire of a dog to hunt is unmatched ­ even when its owner isn't around for a duck opener.

Although the hunting for a majority of us this season has been poor, duck hunting still provides a good story now and then. Here's one from this year's opener.

On this year's duck hunting opener, which took place just a few weeks ago, there was a group hunters decoying on a private waterfowl lake in the area. They were out early and, as the noon opener approached, they watched a water loving lab swimming on the other side of the lake. According to the story, the lab swam for a good hour on the other side of the lake, going in no particular direction.

Then, as the clock ticked closer to noon and the time came to put out decoys, the dog started swimming across the lake to the hunters' boats and blinds.

One hunter said, "The dog got to our side of the lake and into the cattails about 100 yards from us."

With the season now only minutes away, the hunters could hear the dog coming, busting through heavy cattails to get to them. Soon, and without much hoopla, the duck loving retriever was in one of the boats, stout and prolific in a pose at the bow, like only a lab can do, eyes to sky, looking for ducks.

He was ready to hunt.

Ready to hunt for anyone who was willing to hunt with him.

With no other hunters on the lake, the group wondered where the dog came from. But they did not take away his opportunity to do what he was born for, and what he swam so far to do.

The story and opening day ended with ducks, the dog going where- ever he was going back to and one hunter barking, "I can't believe that dog swam the entire lake."

Elk test negative for chronic wasting disease

From the DNR

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health has announced that the second group of 15 elk from an Aitkin County elk herd has tested negative for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). These findings bring the total number of negative cases from the Aitkin County farm to 27.

The Aitkin County herd has been held under quarantine since Aug. 30, when CWD was detected in a single adult male elk. The second group of 15 elk was shipped to the University of Minnesota's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in St. Paul, where they were euthanized. Veterinarians took tissue samples from each animal and submitted them for testing to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. The remaining 21 animals will be euthanized and tested over the next couple of weeks.

Board of Animal Health Executive Director Bill Hartmann said the test results are encouraging.

"We're pleased to see that none of the farmed elk and wild deer we've looked at have tested positive for CWD," Hartmann said. "This is a good indicator that the disease hasn't spread, but we need to complete the testing before we reach any conclusions."

To date, no other elk on the Aitkin elk farm have shown symptoms of CWD. However, state animal health officials decided to euthanize the entire herd because it is thought that CWD may be transmitted by animal-to-animal contact and the only way to test an animal for CWD is to obtain a brain sample.

The only confirmed case of CWD in Minnesota was the single male elk that died on the Aitkin County farm. In addition to the Aitkin County herd being tested by Board of Animal Health, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is testing wild deer culled within a nine-square-mile area surrounding the farm. So far, 97 deer killed by DNR sharpshooters, archery hunters, area landowners and traffic accidents have been submitted for testing. The DNR has received test results from 25 of those deer, all of which were negative.

CWD is a fatal brain and nervous system disease found in elk and deer in certain parts of North America. The disease is believed to be caused by an abnormally shaped protein called a prion, which can damage brain and nerve tissue. Infected animals show progressive loss of body weight with accompanying behavioral changes. In later stages of the disease, infected animals become emaciated (thus "wasting" disease). Other signs include staggering, consuming large amounts of water, excessive urination and drooling.

Snowmobile safety

From the DNR

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials remind adult snowmobilers to take the DNR snowmobile safety course, which is now being offered across the state. The training will help keep riders safe and legal this winter and should reduce the number of people killed or injured on Minnesota trails.

Residents born after Dec. 31, 1976, must have a snowmobile safety certificate to operate a snowmobile anywhere in Minnesota. This requirement was passed by the Legislature in 1997 following the winter of 1996-97 in which 32 snowmobile fatalities were recorded.

The adult snowmobile safety course is available to people 16 years of age and older. The four-hour course is usually taught in one evening. The course takes a close look at the causes of accidents, speed and reaction times, stopping distances, group riding, and the effects of long-term injuries and death on family and friends. In addition to the materials received in the youth and young adult course, the student receives the adult snowmobile safety manual. A fee will be charged to cover the costs of materials and certification.

The snowmobile safety course requirement is intended to help cut down on fatal snowmobiling accidents. In 2001-2002, when almost 300,000 snowmobiles were registered in Minnesota, 17 people died in snowmobiling accidents. Of the 17 fatalities, the average age of victims was 32 years old.

By taking an adult snowmobile safety course, snowmobilers learn about all aspects of their sport and their recreational machines. Students learn about the machine, the laws, safe operation, ethics of the sport, and how to avoid the most common causes of snowmobile accidents.

More than 1,800 volunteer instructors, many of them snowmobile club members, teach DNR snowmobile safety courses across the state. For more information on the dates and locations of these courses, visit the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us or call 1-800-366-8917.

Outdoor notes

­ Blaze orange is required. Don't forget to wear some type of blaze orange clothing while in the outdoors this fall. The wearing of blaze orange is required while hunting upland game in Minnesota, and anyone using the outdoors during the firearms deer hunting season should wear blaze orange clothing. Specific requirements regarding blaze orange clothing can be found on page 31 of the 2002 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook.

­ The firearms deer hunting season in Minnesota opens on Saturday, Nov. 9.

­ Antlerless permits will be drawn and mailed by Oct. 28. On Oct. 28, applicants can go to the DNR Web site at www. dnr.state.mn.us to see if they were drawn for a permit.

­ Although I created a little confusion because of a mistake in my column last week, the 2002 Minnesota pheasant hunting season is now open. The season officially opened on Sat., Oct. 12.

­ Please practice firearm safety in your home. With most hunting seasons now underway, hunters should take precautions to make sure they keep firearms and ammunition out of the reach of children. The best practice is to securely lock and store firearms and ammunition in seperate locations and to never leave them out and accessible to others.

­ The duck hunting in our area has turned dismal. Hunters heading to out of the way spots and hidden corn field potholes have been finding puddle ducks. Other hunters, using more traditional areas and local waterfowl lakes, have reported that ducks are few, and that there are basically no birds in the area. Hopefully, with good water conditions and more crops coming off the fields our area will have more activity from migrating ducks this season and local hunters will still find some good action.

­ The crop harvest is behind compared to the past few years. That will slow pheasant hunting in the first weeks of the season. But, it will also provide better pheasant opportunities later in the season when the crops are harvested.

­ Don't forget about fall fishing. Right now can be the best time of the year to catch lunker walleyes and northern pike. The October full moon is great time to fish. Make sure you give the Crow River a shot for walleyes. A couple of years ago in November the south fork of the Crow River provided me with the best walleye fishing I have ever had.

­ Fall colors are really starting to appear in our area. Look for peak colors in the next week.

­ Deer are starting to become much more active. Look for deer on roadways and be cautious when driving at dusk.

­ Take some time to get outside and enjoy the outdoors before fall is over and we are in the midst of another winter.

­ Daylight savings time ends Sunday, Oct. 27.

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