By Chris Schultz
Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.
Oct. 27, 2003
Minnesota pheasant population booming
It was about 25 years ago and, I was just a kid, and it was the day before the Minnesota pheasant hunting opener.
My dad and I were out in western Minnesota, near Ortonville, with one of my dad's cousins that lived in the area. We were driving around looking for places to pheasant hunt the next day, on the opener.
As we drove the gravel roads, I saw pheasant after pheasant, nothing like I had ever seen before. Then we came up to a turn in the gravel road and a brushy, thicket-filled fence line. In the field, on the east side of the fence line were 50 or more pheasants,
I remember counting till I hit 50. My heart was pounding and I was completely in awe at the number of pheasants in the field. Then my dad told me to look up into the thickets.
I looked and my eyes almost popped out of my head. The thickets were packed with birds, hundreds of them. Birds were in western Minnesota in big numbers and I was actually going to be out after them the next day. Needless to say, my dad and I found some pretty good hunting that weekend.
Then, as mother nature waves her wand and farming practices change, pheasant numbers changed. Some year's bird numbers in western Minnesota were good, more often than not they weren't.
Then, this season rolled around, the grand year of 2003 Minnesota pheasant hunting, and in western Minnesota the birds were back in big numbers.
This time, the DNR was right. They said bird numbers were up substantially, and hunting would be good across the southwestern and western parts of Minnesota's pheasant range.
In fact, the hunting was so good on the opening weekend of the season that even heavy rains didn't keep my hunting party from nabbing our limit of birds within an hour on opening day.
On Sunday, the weather was better and hunting was just as good. A limit of birds and many flushes again took less than an hour.
Many other hunters in southern and western Minnesota found the same success and left the field with big smiles on their faces, noting there was still a lot of corn in the fields and that they were hunting on public land.
On another positive note, with the pheasants also came more hunters, all kinds of hunters. On opening day, the big public hunting area I hunted on, carried 74 vehicles and well over 150 hunters.
For me, it was nice to see the Minnesota pheasant hunting opener turn into an event again because there is no one who cares more about pheasants and pheasant habitat than hunters. Again it reminded me of the hunts in western Minnesota 25 years ago when bird numbers were big.
I also had the chance to spend a good share of the first week of the Minnesota pheasant hunting season out in the field chasing birds. The hunting was a bit tougher, but fewer hunters were out and as the corn came off the fields birds magically appeared.
Locally, hunters have also reported good hunting and more birds than they have ever seen.
With a big smile on my face, great memories flying through my head, and my dog and gun loaded in the truck, I will end this column hoping it gives you the urge to get out to do some good old Minnesota pheasant hunting. The birds are out there.
Extension service to host safe handling of wild game
A live satellite broadcast of It's No Game, a safe food-handling program for hunters from field to table, will be presented Monday, Nov. 3, from 7-9 p.m. at 18 locations throughout Minnesota.
Field dressing for safety, plus transporting and processing of the large game animal, will be demonstrated.
Current issues, including chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer and elk, will be emphasized in the field dressing presentation. Other conditions, including anthrax in bear and Lyme disease, will also be addressed.Viewers will also learn about safe food handling and cooking of the game meat, then preserving it for later use by making jerky, canning and freezing.
Presenters will include experts from the University of Minnesota Extension Service and a number of state agencies, including the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Looking for a new place to hunt?
The Minnesota DNR offers its Public Recreation Information Maps (PRIM) as a resource for recreational hunters looking for public lands on which to hunt.
The maps are divided into 51 area maps and contain a great deal of public ownership data, including federal, state and county lands. All maps have been updated within the last three years to provide hunters with the most current information for planning their outing.
Deer hunters may find good places to hunt in the wildlife management areas, state forests and other public lands around the state. Duck hunters may find it useful to know where the WMAs and wildlife lakes are located and where they can put in their watercraft.
Each map displays parks, forests, scientific and natural areas, waterfowl production areas and wildlife management areas. In addition, each map shows facilities such as state trails, fishing piers, campgrounds, historic sites and more.
PRIM maps are available from the DNR Gift Shop at 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, Minnesota's Bookstore, 117 University Ave., St. Paul, and several sporting goods and map stores around the state. They can be purchased online at www.minnesotasbookstore.com. Maps are $4.95 each, plus tax.
The DNR advises hunters to be aware of private property when they are looking into a new hunting area, and to always ask first before hunting on private property.
Snowmobile course offered
The Winsted sportsman Club is offering a snowmobile safety course on Nov. 17, 18, 19 at 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m each night. Driving test will follow after a snowfall. Age group is for 12 years and up.
To register call Harvey Nowak after 5 p.m. at (320) 485-3738..
The firearms deer hunting season in Minnesota opens on Saturday, Nov. 8. Now is the time to get ready. Sight in your rifle, sharpen your knife and be prepared for what is expected to be an excellent year of deer hunting in Minnesota. In next week's column look for more info on this years deer hunt.
With the pheasant and duck season well underway, take the time to give your dog a good check over. Pay special attention to the eyes, ears, paws and belly.
Antlerless permits were mailed last week.
Don't forget about fall fishing. Fall is the best time of year to nab lunker walleye and northern pike.
Minnesota pheasant hunting has been great. At this time of year look for cornfields or those that were just harvested and then hunt the closest available cover.
Take a kid hunting or fishing. He or she will have fun and so will you.
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