Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

Dec. 23, 2002

The pheasant hunting season ends

Another year of pheasant hunting recently came to a close in Minnesota.

The official end was Sunday, Dec. 15. For me, as it is every year, it was a sorrowful end. Cleaning up the shotgun and putting away the boots are things I hate to do when I know they won't be coming out again for another 10 months, especially after a darn good year of hunting.

Back in August, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported that August roadside counts for pheasants indicated a huge increase in bird numbers in south central, southwest and western Minnesota.

In western Minnesota, bird numbers, compared to counts in 2001, rose by 161 percent. In south central Minnesota, birds numbers rose by a whopping 234 percent.

In the southwest, bird numbers rose 133 percent. For Minnesota (which is still no South Dakota, Iowa, North Dakota, or Nebraska when it comes to pheasant numbers and pheasant hunting), the increases were more than great news.

The best part of the whole deal is that the DNR and their roadside counts were pretty accurate. For me, and many other Minnesota pheasant hunters, the bird chasing was pretty darn good this year.

The hunting was especially good in the middle part of the season, when a majority of the corn and soybean crops came off the fields.

As the DNR predicted, the hunting was best in the south and western parts of Minnesota's pheasant range. Locally, summer flooding took a big toll on pheasant numbers, and the hunting, as expected, was a bit dismal.

The only downfalls of Minnesota's season were hunting pressure and the lack of snow in the late season. When the word got out, hunters flocked to public lands in southern and western Minnesota and pheasant hunting wasn't a solitary sport again.

Several of those hunters noted the hunting was so good and they saw enough birds that they may skip their annual trips to South Dakota next year.

As far as late season hunting went, it was tough. No snow to concentrate birds, and the increased hunting pressure throughout the year, made late season hunting in any part of the state a challenge.

Although bird numbers were higher, and it was a good season of hunting, Minnesota still has a long way to go in improving and creating more habitat for pheasants and other wildlife.

If it's a mild winter and nesting conditions are good this spring, look for pheasant numbers to take another jump.

On a final note, during the third week of the season while hunting on public land in western Minnesota, my dog busted into a chunk of heavy cover and more than 50 birds took to the air.

That hasn't happen to me in Minnesota since I was a kid in the fall of 1981.

Hopefully it will happen in Minnesota again next year.

Outdoor notes

­ The grouse hunting season in Minnesota closes Tuesday, Dec. 31.

­ Please make sure your fish house is in good shape and ready to go for the ice fishing season.

Check all the trailer and towing parts, wheels, springs, and hitch. Make sure your stove is properly ventilated and in good working order.

Also, your fish house does need to have reflectors on each side so it can be seen at night by vehicles and snowmobiles. If the fish house is left on the ice overnight, two square inches of reflective material must be put on each side.

­ Put new line on your jiggle sticks and ice fishing rods, and get your auger blades sharpened.

­ A few anglers have been concerned about possible contaminated fish in Howard Lake and Big Waverly Lake because of flooding this summer.

According to the water testing of those lakes, there is absolutely no reason to believe the fish in Howard and Big Waverly Lakes aren't completely safe to eat.

For more information, please read the article done by Herald Journal Editor Lynda Jensen in this week's paper.

Personally, Howard and Big Waverly received` very little fishing pressure this summer and could be real sleepers this winter.

­ A special note of appreciation to Rachel Rolf of Howard Lake for sending me the beautiful magazine on wildlife in Arizona.

­ Merry Christmas, and I hope everyone has a holiday season filled with joy and outdoor fun.

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