By Chris Schultz
Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.
Dec. 15, 2003
Lake Mary walleye and record hunting
Back in October, the Winsted Sportsmen's Club, the Lake Mary Homeowners Association and the Watertown Rod and Gun Club all teamed up to fund a stocking of walleye fingerlings into Lake Mary. It was the third time in the past six years the group has organized and funded a walleye fingerling stocking into the lake.
Needless to say, many of us have caught a few of those walleyes in the past few years. Some big enough to keep, most of them not. No matter the size right now, the future of walleye fishing in Lake Mary looks bright.
With that future in mind and the hopes of a good sized 20 inch walleye in hand, the groups associated with the stocking efforts are asking all anglers fishing Lake Mary to please release all walleyes 15 inches and under back into the lake.
They want to give the walleyes a chance to grow and naturally reproduce. The goal, as it should be for all of us, is to improve the lake and the walleye fishing it provides.
Back in August, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and similar agencies in Iowa, Nebraska and the Dakota's all reported huge increases in pheasant numbers. Some even noted it could be a banner year for pheasant hunters, potentially the best of the best.
If your a pheasant hunter, you've heard those reports before, and the only thing that can confirm or deny them is a season of pheasant hunting. If your a hunter that sticks to chasing birds solely in Minnesota, most of the time you've been disappointed.
However, this year in Minnesota and across the midwest pheasant range, there was no level of disappointment and most hunters, especially those of a younger generation, were jumping for joy.
For me, this being my 25th year of chasing roosters, I started when I was 12, it was the best year of pheasant hunting in terms of bird numbers and harvest success that I have ever experienced.
In western Minnesota 100 flush days were common and public lands hunting was extremely good. Locally, there were good numbers of birds for the limited habitat we have and it was not uncommon for a hunter with a good dog to bag a limit of 2 birds. I did not hunt in southwestern or southcentral Minnesota, but reports from other hunters noted huge bird numbers, and although hunting pressure was immense, the quality of hunting was good.
In other middwestern states and especially in parts of South Dakota, bird numbers were at all time highs and hunter success was outstanding. In many areas of South Dakota seeing 500 or more pheasants in an area of good habitat was not uncommon.
The huge pheasant numbers this season were basically due to consecutive mild winters and warm dry nesting conditions for pheasants in the spring. That combination helped bring pheasants back in areas of west central Minnesota where numbers had ben depressed and really boosted bird numbers in areas where there was quality habitat and where numbers had been on the rise in the past few years. In southern and western Minnesota 2003 was the third straight year of significant population increases. This year however, hunters could really see the increases.
The 2003 Minnesota season closed on Sun., Dec. 14, but in South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska pheasant hunting seasons don't close until late December or early January.
In up coming columns I'll tell you about a few specific hunts, dive into pheasant population numbers and take a look at next year.
Record number of white-tailed deer harvested
From the DNR
Minnesota deer hunters harvested a record 253,300 white-tailed deer during the firearms deer seasons that concluded Nov. 30, according to a preliminary summary of deer registration by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The 2003 firearms deer harvest increased nearly 25 percent from the 2002 total of 203,600, and is up more than 10 percent over the previous record firearms harvest of 229,200 in 1992, according to Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game program coordinator.
"Good weather, healthy deer populations, and a simplified system of distributing lots of licenses for antlerless deer all contributed to the record harvest," Cornicelli said.
Preliminary estimates also indicate a significant increase in the proportion of the harvest that consisted of antlerless deer, which is important for deer population management.
"We needed a high harvest this year to help keep deer populations within goal levels, so we are very pleased with these results," Cornicelli said.
The 2003 firearms total alone also surpasses the previous record statewide total deer harvest (by all methods) of 243,000 in 1992. That harvest included deer taken in the archery and muzzleloader seasons. Archery and muzzleloader seasons continue into December, so those 2003 harvest totals are not yet available. Typically, more than 19,000 deer are taken during those seasons. When all seasons are concluded, this year's total deer harvest should exceed 270,000, Cornicelli said.
Hunters responded well to the new deer management system and purchased a record number of licenses to take antlerless deer this year, according to Cornicelli. The total number of firearms hunters increased by only 2.7 percent more than 2002, but nearly 100,000 more licenses valid for antlerless deer were purchased this year.
DNR offers a variety of books for holiday gifts
From the DNR
Looking for something special for a nature lover? Consider adding a book to their library. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) offers a variety of books on the outdoors ranging from bird feeding to landscaping to nature appreciation.
Books by Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor, are top sellers among books of their kind in Minnesota. Henderson's "Wild about Birds: The DNR Bird Feeding Guide," a must for the Minnesota bird lover, includes tips on 44 types of food and offers woodshop basics for construction of 26 different feeders, that will help increase the number and species of birds using their feeders.
Another popular book, "Woodworking for Wildlife," is perfect for the Midwest woodworker and wildlife lover, includes diagrams for building birdhouses, nest boxes and platforms to attract wildlife.
Landscaping for Wildlife is packed with color photos and diagrams that show how to attract wildlife to your property using inexpensive, easy-to-follow landscaping plans.
A new release, from the DNR Division of Ecological Services is "Restore Your Shore."
It is a multimedia CD-ROM that offers innovative solutions to common shoreland problems, includes worksheets and forms to design/implement your design plan using a customized plant list from an extensive searchable database of more than 400 native plants.
The traveler on your list may appreciate "Traveler's Guide to Wildlife in Minnesota" co-authored by Henderson, Andrea Lee Lambrecht and the DNR nongame wildlife specialists.
The "Traveler's Guide," written for novice and veteran wildlife watchers alike, features 120 special places to observe and photograph wildlife in Minnesota, with easy to read maps, and information about facilities and recreational opportunities at each site.
Henderson's books and CD-ROM can be ordered from bookstores and online booksellers. They are also available from the Minnesota Bookstore in St. Paul or by calling (651) 297-3000 (Twin Cities metro area) or toll free 1-800-657-3757 (nationwide).
If your read the press release from the DNR in this weeks column, you'll know there was a record deer harvest in Minnesota this year.
Somebody is doing something right. A record deer harvest, super pheasant hunting with probably 500,000 or more birds harvested, great giant Canada goose hunting and more public land to hunt on. Who did it all and how did we get there?
Think about that next time you complain about the DNR or get asked to donate to Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited or a local conservation club.
The ice fishing season is here. Several anglers are reporting 4 to 6 inches of ice on our area lakes and some pretty good early ice action. With the season underway we should all remember that no ice, especially early ice is ever completely safe.
Please note area lakes like Winsted, that are typically aerated every year. Aerations systems are not in operation yet, but will be very soon.
Four inches of good solid ice is recommended for foot traffic.
Hunting, fishing and other outdoor related sports are a big part of Minnesota's economy. Just take a look back a see how much you spent on those outdoor pursuits in 2003.
With most of the hunting seasons over for another year, make sure your firearms are put away in secure locked storage. Ammunition should not be stored or locked in the same location as the firearms.
If you are looking for something new or different to try this winter give spearing a crack. Around here it's kind of a dying sport. However, it's a great way to look at and experience and completely different world. A world under the ice.
Take some time to get out and enjoy winter. Participating in it makes it go by a lot faster.
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