Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

Nov. 10, 2003

Public lands, where would

we hunt without them?

Posted or no trespassing signs decorate telephone pole after telephone pole . . . leasing land or the renting of hunting rights has become common ­ and today, for those who can afford it, land is being bought simply for hunting.

In many areas of Minnesota, especially in areas of good pheasant numbers, hunting or non-agricultural land is selling for more per acre then top farm land.

It seems the pheasant crop has outpaced the corn crop when it comes to the almighty dollar.

It's simply an issue of finding a decent place to hunt in an era where grandma and grandpa don't own the farm anymore, neighbors don't know each other, all the lakes shore property is gone, and property values for what used to be considered fallow ground are rising rapidly.

Throw in weekend hobby farms instead of lakes cabins, and the continued growth of country homesteads on anything that isn't farmed or tilled, and finding a chunk of private land to hunt on, especially in southern Minnesota, has gotten darn tough.

Tough enough, that even veteran bird hunters like myself, don't even bother with hunting on private land anymore.

With that said, and the message clear from telephone pole to telephone pole, what would we do as Minnesota hunters without public hunting lands ­ even if they get pounded weekend after weekend by hundreds of other hunters just like ourselves?

The answer is simple, we would have to get rich quick so we could buy up some hunting land in Swift or Cottonwood County or we would just quit hunting.

Locally, and across Minnesota, we are blessed with the quantity and quality of public hunting lands.

From the Superior National Forest near Tofte on the North Shore, to a new state wildlife management area being developed near the childhood home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, just outside of Walnut Grove in southwestern Minnesota, we have places to hunt ­ many of them.

For me, state forests, federal waterfowl productions areas, national wildlife refuges, and state wildlife management areas are the staple of my hunting adventures.

They give me a place to hunt, walk, watch the dog work, and enjoy the outdoors. A place where I know I am welcome and can feel comfortable at. A place that I must share, but treat like it is mine and mine alone.

All of us that use them have that special spot. The corner of a management area where roosters are always hiding. The back end of slough on a waterfowl production area where the mallards like to snuggle in, or the spot on an old logging trail where the deer always cross.

If you're reading this column, I'll make a safe bet that you have a special spot like that somewhere amidst Minnesota's public hunting lands. If you do, enjoy it, savor it, take care of it, and treat it like it was yours and yours alone.

Some day, another hunter will need that spot, that special place. Without it, where would they hunt?

To find public hunting lands in Minnesota please contact the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The department has a variety of maps available that identify public lands. The best of these are Public Information Recreation Maps or PRIM maps. Prim Maps can be purchased on the DNR's Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

27 and younger required snowmobile training

If you were born after Dec. 31, 1976, which means you are 27 or younger by the end of 2003, you need to take a snowmobile safety training course before you can legally ride a snowmobile anywhere in Minnesota, including private land.

This law took effect last year (Oct. 2, 2002), but many people are not aware it. "Even though the last couple of winters have not provided enough snow for heavy snowmobiling activity, many people who need the training have not taken the class and should do so now to prepare for the upcoming snowmobile season," said Lt. Shelly Patten, DNR Division of Enforcement, Grand Rapids.

To legally ride a snowmobile, people born after Dec. 31, 1976 need a valid snowmobile safety certificate or a driver's license (or identification card) with a valid snowmobile qualification indicator on it.

Until recently, the only way to get the qualification was by taking a snowmobile safety training course from a DNR-certified instructor (either an 11-hour youth course or a four-hour adult course for those 16 and older). But this year, the DNR has a CD-ROM available for those 16 and older. "They can review the information at home and fill out the forms/tests and send them in," Patten said.

The CD is free, after the student completes the CD and takes the test, they will submit a $10 fee to DNR at Camp Ripley with the proof of test completion to receive their certificate. The CD-ROM is available from the DNR by phone at 1-888-MINN "DNR (1-888-646-6367), (651) 296-6157 or by e-mail to info@dnr.state.mn.us

Adult students may still take either the youth course or the 4-hour adult classroom session or the instruction through the CD-ROM.

Reminder: Minnesota State Trails do not open for snowmobiling until there is sufficient snow and never before Dec. 1 even if there is snow before that time. DNR trails staff and snowmobile club volunteers will not have trails ready before then.

Outdoor notes:

­ The firearms deer hunting season is off and rolling in Minnesota. Look some info on how my hunt went and reports from local hunters in next week's column.

­ Remember to wear blaze orange clothing anytime you're in the outdoors during the firearms deer hunting season.

­ Look out for deer on the roadways. Deer are very active at this time of year and be especially cautious of deer on the roadways at dawn and dusk.

­ The ice is here. Most of the small potholes in our area are now covered with ice and the smaller lakes in the area are just starting to form ice. Please remember that no ice, especially early ice is completely safe. The ice, also put quick end to hunting in our area.

­ The Crow River is producing walleyes. Anglers on the north fork east of Howard Lake are reporting good fishing and the dam in Hutchinson, on the south fork has been a hot spot.

­ Although it has gotten a lot tougher, Minnesota pheasant hunters are still finding good numbers of birds and most reports say the hunting is still pretty good.

For good late season action, wait until the deer hunters have cleared out and hit the cattail sloughs.

­ Take some time to enjoy the remaining days of fall. Soon, we'll get a hefty snowfall that will stick around for a while.

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