Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

Oct. 28, 2002

Minnesota pheasant hunting good in parts of MN

Minnesota's 2002 pheasant hunting season opened Saturday, Oct. 12. Despite damp, windy conditions and a slow crop harvest, the hunting was good in several parts of the state.

For myself, Stan Hoof of Glencoe, Harold Hoof Jr. of Hutchinson, and, of course, my black lab Angus, the opener provided some pretty good hunting.

Hunting public land from Jackson north to Redwood Falls, we managed to bag our one-day limit of six roosters. Birds were in good numbers, maybe not as high as I expected, but there were acres and acres of corn and soybean still in the fields.

The best action of the day came on a state wildlife management area near Redwood Falls. Just before sunset from a small rise in the management area, we watched and waited for birds, specifically roosters, to come out of the corn. They did, and after a few twists and turns by Angus through the heavy cover, we had our last two roosters and an opening day limit.

Other reports from hunters in southern Minnesota were mixed. Some hunters had excellent success while others struggled, complaining of too much corn and too many hunters. Several also noted the heavy winds through part of the day made hunting difficult.

In western Minnesota, the hunting was much the same. Heavy winds, heavy pressure, and acres of standing crops made limits very rare.

Birds in the bag or not, it was a good opener that, for the most part, proved there are birds out there.

Conditions on the opener were just bad enough to make hunting for the rest of the season that much better. This year, with much of the crop still in the field, the opener wasn't feast or famine and there are a lot birds still left out there.

As the crops come off the fields, the hunting will only get better.

The trick right now is to closely watch the crop harvest in areas you like to hunt. Hit areas of good cover right after the crops in the area are harvested, and pay special attention to those cornfields that may be around for awhile yet. Birds congregate to standing corn and the last field in a section can hold a lot birds.

Good luck hunting, and remember that the wearing of blaze orange clothing is required while hunting upland game in Minnesota.

Manitoba waterfowl

I recently returned from a waterfowl hunting trip in the prairie pothole country and large grain fields of southwestern Manitoba, Canada. As usual the hunting, number of waterfowl, and hospitality were excellent.

However, this trip provided me with new insights to waterfowl hunting, and the work and effort that is associated with a week-long trip of snow goose field decoying and packing in decoys for over-water duck hunting.

More than anything else, the trip and all the work involved gave me a new appreciation for what fathers sacrifice and go through so their young sons can hunt. For them it is a labor of love that carries joy, tradition, and at times, frustration.

Keith Weise of Lester Prairie and his two sons Beau, an eighth grader, and Keenan, a high school senior, were on the trip for the second year and the effort put forth by Keith to ensure a quality hunt for his sons was far more than what I ever imagined it could be.

While I felt I was busting my butt to keep piles of equipment organized amid mud and ice, cleaning birds, and providing a good experience for basically myself, Keith, with his boys sharing in the work, took duck hunting desire to a new level.

Next week we'll follow the flyway north to Manitoba and take a more in depth look at waterfowl hunting fathers and their sons.

Duplicate firearm safety certificates available

From the DNR

Hunters who have lost their firearms safety training certificates aren't out of luck. Duplicates are available from the Department of Natural Resources, but people shouldn't delay making their request, according to Jeff Thielen, DNR Enforcement Education Program coordinator.

"This is the time of the year when we are overrun with requests for duplicate firearm safety and hunter education certificates, as hunters attempt to purchase licenses in Minnesota and other states," Capt. Thielen said. "People who have lost or misplaced their certificate need to show proof of having taken the firearms safety or hunter education training before purchasing a hunting license in Minnesota or another state."

Proof of training is a small orange certificate. A recent statute change also allows proof of training to be indicated on the back of the Minnesota driver's license under "Endorsements."

"Individuals who have taken training may have this endorsement on their drivers license," Thielen said. "If not, they should bring proof of training when they renew their drivers license."

Firearm safety training consists of at least 12 hours of instruction in safe firearms handling, which includes firing on a range, hunter responsibility, a field trip for teaching commonly accepted principles of safety in hunting, and providing experience in the handling of all types of common hunting firearms. Upon completion, the student receives a certificate. In Minnesota this certificate is required to purchase any firearms license if the hunter was born after Dec. 31, 1979. Many states have more stringent requirements, with the state of Colorado requiring proof of hunter education and firearms safety for anyone born after Jan. 1, 1949.

"Hunters going out of state, who must show proof of having taken training, are the ones having the most problems," Thielen said.

The DNR's Electronic Licensing System provides duplicate firearms safety and snowmobile safety certificates, so those who have lost or misplaced their certificates can pick up a duplicate certificate at the same time and location where they purchase a license.

People may also contact the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll free 1-888-MINN-DNR (646-6367) to order a duplicate, or contact the DNR Safety Training Section toll free at 1-800-366-8917. Applicants must provide their full name, date of birth, current address and Minnesota Driver's License number (if available). It helps to know when and where the applicant originally took the training course. There is a small fee for issuance of a duplicate certificate.

"Minnesota volunteer instructors have certified just un der 1 million people in firearms safety and hunter education since the program began in 1955," Thielen said. "That makes Minnesota one of the leading states in the country for trained and certified hunters."

Mentors make sure young hunters know safety precautions

From the DNR

Focusing attention on a young hunter can pay big dividends, according to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials.

Capt. Jeff Thielen, the DNR Enforcement Division Education Program coordinator, said undivided attention is important. "If you are taking a youngster hunting this fall, your primary focus should be on the novice hunter and not on your own hunt. That will help ensure the youngster is always following the rules of firearms safety," Thielen said.

''Young people handling firearms need to develop some important habits," Thielen said, "and these habits are only learned through constant reinforcement by the mentor. We can instill these habits by instructing them -- and more important, by setting an example. These young people need role models or mentors who practice safe hunting skills."

Thielen said mentors ensure that the safe practices taught in youth firearms safety and hunter education classes are constantly reinforced in young hunters. Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1979, must have a firearms safety certificate to obtain a firearms license to hunt in Minnesota.

Thielen recommends that mentors spend more time observing the young hunters' actions during their time in the field, even if that means the mentors neglect their own hunt a little. He encourages mentors to stress the following hunting safety tips:

· Make sure the firearm fits the shooter and is in good working order. Mentors should not provide a young hunter with just any available rifle or shotgun and send them afield. There are firearms on the market designed specifically for young shooters.

· Bolt action rifles are preferred to lever actions with exposed hammers; slide action shotguns with only one shell loaded are preferred to exposed hammer single shots or semi-automatics for novice hunters. Accidents occur because a young shooter with cold fingers allows the hammer to slip and the gun to fire. Accidents also occur when young shooters hunt with the hammer in the cocked position.

· Practice marksmanship and firearms handling skills with air rifles with pellets. This is a safe, fun and inexpensive method to reinforce skills for the novice hunter and can be done in the home.

· Familiarize yourself with the hunting area so that you know what is beyond your target. This is an especially important rule to stress with young hunters.

· Always keep track of where the gun is pointed and keep your finger off the trigger until it is time to fire. Never aim a gun at anything you do not plan to shoot.

· Know the location of all the members of your hunting group. Before separating, discuss where each hunter will be and who will be walking through the woods. Walk behind the young hunter and help keep track of everyone else.

· Don't shoot until you are absolutely sure of your target. Shooting at a sound or an undefined shape is inviting tragedy.

· Unload your gun before climbing trees, scaling fences and logs, or jumping over ditches.

· Always assume every firearm is loaded. When you pick up a gun, keep it pointed in a safe direction and check the chamber. When you pass a firearm to someone else, leave the action open so there is no chance of it firing.

· Always unload and case guns when transporting them to and from a hunting area.

· Competition may be healthy in sports, but not while hunting. "Mentors need to impress upon young hunters that hunting success is measured in many ways besides bagging game," Thielen said. "Take a look at your values and then sit down and discuss all the reasons you hunt with your young hunter." Mentors can learn more about their responsibilities by picking up a copy of the DNR brochure, "Forging our future . . . By mentoring a young hunter today."

Mentors provide youngsters with the proper habits that will keep them and their hunting companions accident free, Thielen noted.

"Along with safe hunting, youngsters learn good sportsmanship and the importance of safety through an experienced mentor," Thielen said.

Outdoor notes

­ The firearm deer hunting season in Minnesota opens Saturday, Nov. 9. Hunters should make sure they are well prepared for the hunt and take the time to review all measures of firearms and hunting safety.

­ A note to all the firearms deer hunters that purchased the new all- season deer license. Party hunting is not allowed with an all-season deer license. Information on party hunting can found on page 57 of the 2002 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook.

­ Winners in the drawing for antlerless permits will be notified on or after Monday, Oct. 28. If you applied and were not notified, you can assume that you were not drawn and will not receive a permit. Interested applicants can also check to see if they were drawn for a permit by logging on to the DNR's Website at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

­ The season on pintails in Minnesota closed Oct. 27.

­ Hunters heading to North Dakota with a dog this hunting season must get a health certificate for their dog and have it registered with the state of North Dakota. The process can be completed by your local veterinarian. For more information, I suggest hunters contact their vet.

­ The Winsted Sportsmen's Club and the Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club will each be offering snowmobile safety training courses this season. Look for dates and more information in upcoming columns.

­ This could be the coldest October on record.

­ Local duck hunting has been dismal of late and, if the weather stays cold, many or most of the potholes and small waterfowl lakes could be frozen very soon, putting a quick end to the season.

­ Fall fishing on the part of the Crow River and on several lakes in the area has been excellent. Right now fish, especially lunker northern pike and walleyes, go on a feeding frenzy. The best action comes in shallow water in the evening. Strap on your waders and give it a shot.

­ Look for a majority of the crops to be off the field very soon. When that happens, take a good look at the landscape in our area and you will notice how barren it actually is and how few places wildlife like pheasants have go.

­ Please practice firearms safety in the home this hunting season. Make sure all firearms are locked in secure locations and ammunition is locked in a separate location.

­ Good luck hunting and take some time to enjoy the fall.

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