Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

Nov. 3, 2003

Minnesota firearms deer hunting season opens Saturday

With huge expectations, mountains of tradition, lots of deer, and clouds of blaze orange the 2003 version of Minnesota firearms deer hunting will be off and rolling one half hour before sunrise on Saturday, Nov. 8.

All reports indicate a tremendous deer herd in the state this year, especially in Minnesota's tradition filled northern forests. Hunters heading to the northern forested regions like myself, are expecting to see deer and have an excellent opportunity to harvest one or maybe even more than one deer.

Numbers are also good locally and good to above average through Minnesota's agricultural or non-forested regions.

With out question, it should be one of Minnesota's best seasons of deer hunting ever.

For me, I'll be heading to the same woods, and probably the same stump, near CrossLake that I've hunted at for almost 20 years. I know I will see deer. However, harvesting one is another question. My success ratio hasn't been good the past 10 or so years.

With good cause, my expectations are higher than normal this year. The area my party will be hunting was classified as a managed deer area this season and several of us also purchase additional permits. That means more me, a doe or buck can be harvested and a second doe or antlerless deer.

Reports from the DNR and local residents indicate a very large and healthy deer herd in the area this year.

Finally, if Herald Journal Sports Editor Aaron Schultz can harvest a deer by spending half of each hunting day sleeping in the my truck, I should be able to harvest a deer by diligently spending every possible of hour hunting time in the woods.

Either way, I'm dreaming of that big buck waltzing by the truck while Aaron is sitting in their warming up and then the deer trotting past my spot in the woods, gun ready, and good shot shot taken. Ultimately, after the animal is field dressed and I have appropriately savored the moment with respect to the animal and outdoors, Aaron grudgingly drags it a mile or so our the woods for me.

Sometimes, deer hunting dreams do come true.

Minnesota deer firearms season opens Nov. 8

As the state's deer firearms season opens Nov. 8, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds hunters to follow safety guidelines.

"Hunting is historically a safe sport, but only if hunters exercise caution and follow safety guidelines," said DNR Chief Conservation Officer Mike Hamm. "We want everyone this season to have a good experience hunting and to be safe."

One of the most popular pieces of equipment used by deer hunters is a tree stand. Each year, the majority of hunting accidents are the result of incorrect or careless use of tree stands. Nationally, one in three hunting injuries involve a tree stand. Falls from tree stands can be caused by a variety of factors, including a weakness in the stand's structure and incorrect installation.

To help prevent these accidents, Hamm advises hunters to follow these safety precautions:

· because most accidents occur when hunters are climbing up or down a tree, always use a climbing belt, and use a safety belt or harness when hunting from elevated tree stands

· never carry equipment with you while climbing

· use a haul line to raise or lower your gear

· make sure firearms are unloaded prior to raising or lowering them with a haul line

· check permanent tree stands every year before hunting from them, and replace any worn or weak lumber

· carry a whistle to call for help and carry a first aid kit, flashlight and cellular telephone with you

· wear boots with non-skid soles, because steps or platforms can be slippery in rain, sleet or snow

· don't fall asleep (a common cause of accidents); if you get drowsy, move your arms rapidly until you feel alert

· as a precautionary measure, remove all logs, upturned and cutoff saplings, rocks and other obstructions on the ground below the tree stand

· use updated equipment; when used properly, newer tree stand equipment is solid, safe and secure; older models of safety belts offer some protection, newer safety harnesses offer more protection

Firearms can be dangerous if they are used incorrectly or carelessly. Hunters are reminded to always follow these safety guidelines while using a firearm:

· treat every gun as if it were loaded; watch the muzzle and prepare to control the direction of the muzzle even if you stumble

· be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions and that you have only ammunition of the proper size for the gun

· know identifying features of the game you hunt

· unload guns when not in use, take down or have actions open

· put guns in cases before carrying to the shooting area

· never climb a tree or jump a ditch with a loaded gun; never pull the gun toward you by the muzzle

· never shoot a bullet at flat, hard surfaces or water

· store guns and ammunition separately, beyond the reach of children and careless adults; trigger locks are strongly advised

· avoid alcoholic beverages and medications that cause drowsiness before or during use of a firearm

· identify your target and know the terrain beyond

· tell a dependable person where you're hunting and when you plan to return

· map your whereabouts and leave a note at camp, at home or in your car so that you can be found

"The average Minnesota deer hunter's chances of ending up an accident statistic are small, but that's no reason to ignore hunting safety," Hamm said. "Don't leave deer hunting safety to chance, follow safety guidelines."

ATV use allowed during firearms deer season

Although wildlife management areas in most of the state are closed to all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), a 2002 law change that took effect earlier this year expands ATV use during the firearms deer season in certain Consolidated Conservation (Con-Con) wildlife management areas in portions of northwest Minnesota.

On wildlife management areas located within the area described below, a licensed deer hunter can operate an all-terrain vehicle before and after shooting hours and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. These are the same hours that apply statewide for ATV use by deer hunters during the seasons for which they are licensed. The limited hours of operation are designed to minimize disturbance during the prime hours for deer hunting. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

The area where licensed deer hunters are allowed to use ATVs on wildlife management areas during legal operating hours lies just northwest of the Red Lake Indian Reservation. It is in the vicinity of Grygla and extends roughly from State Highway 1 near Goodridge, northerly and easterly to near Skime, east along the Roseau/Beltrami county line to Dick's Parkway forest road, and then southerly through Fourtown and along State Highway 89 back to the Red Lake Reservation boundary.

In addition to this new provision, hunters without a firearm are still allowed to use an ATV to retrieve a deer that is known to be dead for a two hour period beginning one-half hour after sunset in all wildlife management areas north of State Highway 1 and from the area described above west and north to the state boundaries (see page 112 of the 2003 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook for a complete legal description of this area).

The complete legal description of the area where ATVs may be used on wildlife management areas by licensed deer hunters before and after shooting hours and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. is that area of the state within the following described boundary:

From State Highway 1 and the west boundary of the Red Lake Indian Reservation; then west to State Highway 219; then north on State Highway 219 to State Highway 89; then north on State Highway 89 to County Highway 6; then east on County Highway 6 to County Highway 54 and County Highway 1 Beltrami/Marshall county line); then north along the Beltrami/Marshall county line to the Roseau County line; then east on the Beltrami/Roseau county line to Dick's Parkway; then south on Dick's Parkway to County Road 704, Beltrami county; then south to County State-aid Highway 44 to Fourtown; then south on State Highway 89 to the north boundary of the Red Lake Indian Reservation, then west and south following the boundary of the Red Lake Indian Reservation to the beginning.

Young deer hunters reminded of Social Security number requirement

Recent legislation requires the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to collect a customer's Social Security number (SSN) as part of an application for a non-commercial game and fish license. This legislation was passed to meet the Federal requirements of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. This Federal requirement is to assist states in enforcement of child support programs.

Therefore, all deer hunters regardless of age must provide their SSN if the number is not on their DNR customer file. If a customer has a SSN, but fails to provide it or know it, they will be denied a hunting license. "The SSN is required of all hunting and fishing license customers regardless of age," said Tom Keefe, ELS Program Manager.

Keefe indicated the DNR is particularly concerned about young hunters (age 12-15) who want to purchase a deer license, but they (along with their parents) may not recall their SSN.

"Current sales figures indicate only about 10% of our customer's age 12-15 have bought their deer license," said Keefe, "leaving 90% or over 40,000 young customers to purchase a license within less then two weeks. We could see a number of disappointed young hunters come deer opener if they don't remember their SSN."

The DNR has updated the majority of its resident customers records with a SSN from the Minnesota driver's license files. The SSN requirement is also needed for driver's license applications and renewals, noted Keefe.

The Department understands customers will have concerns with this requirement and has taken several steps to reduce customer concerns and still meet the federal requirements for collection of the customer's SNN. These include: SSN will not be printed on any license material, the SSN information will be held in a secure with database with very limited access, and collection of the SSN is required only once.

Residents of the United States who have not had a SSN issued to them must complete a certification form prior to purchasing a license. These customers may contact the DNR for further information on this certification form.

Finally, Keefe encouraged all hunters to purchase deer licenses now and not wait until the last minute because they could face potential problems and long lines of customers.

First prairie chicken season since 1942 a success (2003-10-28)

Ninety-three hunters, who purchased licenses for Minnesota?s first prairie chicken season in more than 60 years, gained an experience of a lifetime as well as harvesting a total of 115 birds in the season completed Wednesday, Oct. 22, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

"By any measure, this first hunt was a great success," said Lloyd Knudson, DNR farmland wildlife program coordinator. "Most hunters reported seeing lots of birds and all of them I have talked to said they gained a greater appreciation for prairie habitats, prairie chickens, and the wonderful heritage of prairies in Minnesota."

The DNR will be evaluating the season in more detail and will be exploring whether there are opportunities for expanding this unique opportunity to more hunters, while still conserving prairie chicken populations, Knudson said. "We plan to do a survey of prairie chicken hunters and will evaluate the numbers of permits, harvests, and days of hunting that can be offered to see if there is potential for expansion."

Knudson said the greatest value of the hunt, beyond the experience it provided to the participants, was that it spotlighted the importance and high productivity of prairie habitats for wildlife. More than 99 percent of Minnesota's original native prairie has been lost, but the DNR, a number of public and private partners, and landowners are working cooperatively to protect and manage the prairie that remains. They are also increasing efforts to restore and better connect critical grassland habitats.

The DNR, the Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society, and the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR) have also been cooperating on a prairie chicken restoration project in the Lac qui Parle vicinity, where large grassland areas have been protected and restored. Early indications from that restoration effort are very promising that it will be successful.

First prairie chicken season since 1942 a success

Ninety-three hunters, who purchased licenses for Minnesota's first prairie chicken season in more than 60 years, gained an experience of a lifetime as well as harvesting a total of 115 birds in the season completed Wednesday, Oct. 22, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

"By any measure, this first hunt was a great success," said Lloyd Knudson, DNR farmland wildlife program coordinator. "Most hunters reported seeing lots of birds and all of them I have talked to said they gained a greater appreciation for prairie habitats, prairie chickens, and the wonderful heritage of prairies in Minnesota."

The DNR will be evaluating the season in more detail and will be exploring whether there are opportunities for expanding this unique opportunity to more hunters, while still conserving prairie chicken populations, Knudson said. "We plan to do a survey of prairie chicken hunters and will evaluate the numbers of permits, harvests, and days of hunting that can be offered to see if there is potential for expansion."

Knudson said the greatest value of the hunt, beyond the experience it provided to the participants, was that it spotlighted the importance and high productivity of prairie habitats for wildlife. More than 99 percent of Minnesota's original native prairie has been lost, but the DNR, a number of public and private partners, and landowners are working cooperatively to protect and manage the prairie that remains. They are also increasing efforts to restore and better connect critical grassland habitats.

The DNR, the Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society, and the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR) have also been cooperating on a prairie chicken restoration project in the Lac qui Parle vicinity, where large grassland areas have been protected and restored. Early indications from that restoration effort are very promising that it will be successful.

Outdoor notes

­ The Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club will meet tonight, 7 p.m. at the club house.

­ Pheasant hunting in Minnesota and across the midwest has been excellent. For me, It has been one the best seasons I have ever experienced in Minnesota and I'm hoping to get a chance to hunt in the Dakota's, Iowa, or Nebraska sometime this fall.

If you plan on heading out to chase a few pheasants locally or someplace else in Minnesota's pheasant range, look for standing corn. thee isn't much standing corn left out there, but if you find some and there some good cover next to it the birds will be there. At this time of year standing corn is like a magnet for pheasants.

­ I haven't gotten any good reports yet, but look for the northern flight of ducks to get to the area any time now. Reports from southern Manitoba say the ducks are there now in big numbers and are still arriving.

­ Please remember to wear blaze orange anytime you are in the outdoors during Minnesota's firearms deer hunting season.

­ Look for deer on roadways. At this time of year deer move a lot and car deer accidents rise. Be cautious of deer on the roadways especially at dawn and dusk.

­ Fall fishing has been good on several lakes in our area, and look for the action of the Crow River to get very good as fall moves on. November walleye fishing on the Crow River is the best walleye fishing I have ever experienced, and at this time, the water lever on both forks of the river is very low and the river is easy to fish. Look for deeper holes and use live bait.

­ With deer hunting upon us, and other hunting seasons well underway, take some time to slow down and look hard at the area you are hunting. Appreciate the spot you are at and the wildlife that is there with you. Look at how it has changed over the years and note what you can do to make it better for wildlife. If you are a deer hunter and this is the only time of the year your get into the outdoors and close to wildlife please take the time to slow down, look, and appreciate.

Joe's Sport Shop and Hardware to host CWD testing:

The DNR will be conducting testing on harvested deer for Chronic Wasting Disease at Joe's Sport Shop and Hardware in Howard Lake on Sat., Nov. 8 and Sun., Nov. 9. The program is voluntar. Hunters registering their deer at Joe's are not required to have their deer tested for CWD.

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