Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

Nov. 17, 2003

Deer season off to great start

The 2003 version of the Minnesota firearms deer hunting season was off and rolling. Like usual, shots rang to my left, right, front and back; everywhere but from my gun.

I had already endured frozen fingers and toes during the morning hunt, and was walking down a logging trail enroute to my favorite spot in the woods.

As I turned a corner on the trail, there it was, a deer, about 50 yards away, standing just into the woods. At least I thought it was a deer. It sure looked like a deer.

I brought my gun up to get a look through the scope and what I thought was a deer wasn't moving at all ­ not even a hair blowing in the wind.

Then I started thinking maybe it was just a tree stump that, because of shadows, looked like a deer.

My gun came down from my shoulder and I turned the scope up to its full magnification and looked again. Even after a few minutes that felt like hours, there was still no movement.

I was sure it was a deer, but, I wasn't 100 percent sure and, to abide by the rule of never pull the trigger unless you are 100 percent sure of your target, I brought my gun down and concluded the image was a stump and not a deer. As I lifted my foot to take another step down the trail, that stump exploded from the brush and disappeared.

The next day I found myself, just like the past few years, field dressing a deer for Herald Journal Sports Editor Aaron Schultz. The intent is to teach him how to properly field dress a deer. After the affair, I noted that I'm either a very poor teacher or Aaron is a very poor learner ­ the later is most likely the case.

All in all, my hunting party had an excellent weekend of hunting near Cross Lake. We harvested a total of eight deer, and two first- time deer hunters each bagged a nice buck.

Moving on, deer hunting around the state, and especially in forested areas of central Minnesota was and has been excellent. When the season is over with, a record harvest will most likely be reached.

Locally, the hunting was also very good: Joe's Sport Shop and Hardware in Howard Lake registered a total of 139 deer for the first weekend. That's the highest registration total for the first weekend of hunting ever at Joe's. Last year, 102 deer were registered at Joe's on the first weekend and the previous record was in 1992 with 120 deer registered.

At The Depot in Lester Prairie, which is a fairly new registration station for our area, 52 deer have been registered so far. That total also includes deer taken by archery. However, most of them I'm sure were harvested during the first weekend of the firearms season.

This week's column also includes a press release from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on the firearms deer season, and in next week's column look for more information on the deer hunt in our local area.

2003 deer season off to great start

From the DNR

The 2003 Minnesota firearms deer season opened at a pace that could eclipse last year's harvest of 222,000 and become one of the top three firearms deer seasons in history, the DNR announced today.

Using comparable data from registration stations piloting electronic registration of deer, harvest during the opening weekend was up about 25 percent over last year's opening weekend registration at those same stations, according to Lou Cornicelli, big game coordinator for the DNR section of wildlife.

This year's preliminary harvest report was generated using data obtained through a pilot project via the Electronic License System (ELS). The data are comparable to 2002 data, also collected through ELS. In previous years, preliminary deer harvest numbers were generated through a telephone survey of selected registration stations and may not be comparable to this year's data.

Additionally, Cornicelli said efforts to increase the harvest of antlerless deer appear to be working. So far, 51 percent of registered deer were antlerless compared to 38 percent at the same stations at this time last year.

"With the ability to purchase an either-sex license over the counter and to purchase additional antlerless deer licenses in many of the state's deer permit areas, the objective was to shift overall harvest toward more females," Cornicelli said. "This should help manage the overall deer population, reduce the number of yearling bucks in the harvest, and increase overall buck survival."

Final harvest numbers for 2003 will include the total number of deer registered manually and through ELS. An estimate of total firearms deer harvest will be available in December.

Outdoor notes

­ Blaze orange is required. Please remember to wear blaze orange clothing anytime you are in the outdoors during the deer hunting season which, including the muzzleloader season, extends well into December.

­ The fall walleye bite has been excellent on several area lakes and on both forks of the Crow River. Right now the river is low and very easy to fish. Try a shiner or fat head minnow on a plain hook or a Beetle Spin.

­ Many of our potholes and small lakes have ice on them or will very soon. Please remember that no ice, especially early ice, is ever completely safe.

­ After a very good start, pheasant hunting in Minnesota has calmed down a bit, and the hunting has gotten tougher. For the die-hards out there ­ hit the cattail sloughs, be sneaky and you'll bag a bird or two.

­ Like everybody else in pursuit of deer on the Saturday morning of opening day ­ I froze my butt off. In the Brainerd area, a record low of eight degrees below zero was set. Personally, it felt a lot colder than that.

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