Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

Feb. 9, 2004

Winter is back in full force

A few weeks back I wrote about winter fun and what happened to it.

I questioned the outdoor activities that make winter fun and why it seemed fewer, and fewer people were participating in those activities.

I even questioned the very heart of what Minnesota used to be like in the winter.

Sledding, skating, snowmobile riding, ice fishing, skiing, for most of us those activities were a part of winter, and they were what defined us as Minnesotans.

I was beginning to feel like Minnesota, in the winter, just wasn’t what it used to be. Not because of the weather, but because of our ever changing lifestyles. In simple terms, we were getting lazy.

In the past week or so I can say my opinion has changed somewhat, and thanks to a few good old fashioned Minnesota snow storms, and some darn cold winter weather, fun is back in full force.

Snowmobile riders, including myself, have hit the trails in big numbers.

The Howard Lake Sportsmen’s Club annual Fishing derby, which was Saturday, was a boom and the lake was full of not just ice anglers, but all kinds of people just enjoying winter.

My wife and I, along with our kids, battled huge crowds on a cold, snowy, and wind filled Saturday night to see the ice palace in St. Paul.

Actually, we never made it into the palace. The lines were huge and the wait to get in was just about two hours.

We love winter, but not quite that much.

The kids were getting cold, and we were pretty sure it was just as cold inside the ice palace as it was outside.

Finally, staff members at Herald Journal were asking to take time off, not to head to Florida or someplace warm. But, to do things like snowmobile, down hill ski, and even ice skate.

Maybe we haven’t changed all that much, and all it really takes to get us up and off our fannies is some darn cold weather and a good old fashioned Minnesota snow storm.

Turkeys to be trapped, tracked

From the DNR

Despite below zero temperatures, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) trappers are staying hot on the trail of the wild turkey in southeastern Minnesota.

The goal, according to DNR Winona Area Wildlife Manager Gary Nelson, is to initially trap about 70 turkeys this winter to be transplanted in the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, Morrison County, and the Snake River State Forest.

More birds may be trapped and transplanted elsewhere.

As of Jan. 29, 26 hens had been trapped and released.

All trapped birds will be equipped with radio transmitters so that they can be monitored for movement and mortality by a graduate student who is working with the DNR and St. Cloud State University.

“This is the third year of a study that is intended to determine the effects of food plots on wild turkey survival north of their ancestral range in Minnesota,” Nelson explained.

Just how far north the ancestral range of wild turkeys in Minnesota once extended is open to debate, Nelson acknowledged, “but there is some indication they might have been present as far north as the Twin Cities area.”

When the wild turkey reintroduction program began in Minnesota in the 1960s, it was thought wild turkeys would be unable to survive anywhere other than in southeastern Minnesota.

The wisdom of the day said the wild turkey needed large blocks of contiguous hardwoods and relatively mild winter conditions in order to thrive.

“That has since been disproved as wild turkeys are now surviving quite nicely in some 60 counties of Minnesota, as far north as Mahnomen County,” Nelson said.

For the current study, once 70 birds are trapped and released in the study areas, efforts will be made to capture birds for release in areas of Kandiyohi, Norman, Todd, Swift, Big Stone, Otter Tail and Watonwan counties. These birds will not be part of the research project.

The Minnesota Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the DNR Section of Wildlife are providing funding for the trapping program.

Off-road drivers jailed for damaging state forest wetland

From the DNR

Sending a stern warning to all off-road drivers, a Crow Wing County District Court judge recently sentenced two men to jail time for their involvement in damaging a state forest last September.

Anthony Portz, 25, Riverton, and Joseph Bosaaen, 20, Deerwood, were each sentenced to 30 days in jail and ordered to pay $645 in fines.

Their sentences were stayed for 60 days on condition that they serve the jail time, pay their fines and have no similar violations for one year.

Conservation Officer Karl Hadrits of Crosby said, “To see this kind of real jail time and fine imposed on the same set of misdemeanor charges is quite significant, especially in a natural resource case.”

Hadrits noted something else unusual was that Matthew Norton, an attorney from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, advocated the case.

“He had close contact with the prosecutor’s office in the case,” Hadrits said. “He addressed the court when they pled guilty and again at the sentencing hearing, as did the prosecutor and I. If it wasn’t for Mr. Norton’s involvement, I don’t think we would have received the penalty we did.”

Hadrits noted the $645 in fines and jail time was in addition to the approximately $1,200 in civil fines and restitution that Portz and Bosaaen haven’t appealed and must pay, and the original $105 in fines they received for the first incident that they already paid.

“So the ticket for the whole event on each guy cost about two grand and a month in jail,” Hadrits said.

The charges were the result of an investigation by Hadrits, which was initiated by a complaint from some duck hunters during the 2003 waterfowl opener on Sept. 27.

The duck hunters contacted Hadrits after videotaping mud truckers repeatedly driving through the lake bed and around the lakeshore area of Flanders Lake in the Crow Wing State Forest.

Portz, Bosaaen, Mitchall Dean Buss, 22, Aitkin, and Joseph Paul Bednarczyk, 24, Crosby, operated the mud trucks.

Buss and Bednarczyk are scheduled for a jury trail on March 18.

Hadrits ticketed each mud truck operator and advised them of numerous laws that they violated, including hunter harassment, driving off-trail in a state forest, driving on a snowmobile trail, operating in the unfrozen bed of public waters, and no off-road vehicle registration.

A few hours after the incident with the duck hunters, the same individuals heavily damaged the wetlands.

The drivers were again contacted and confessed to doing the damage.

The Minnesota Legislature passed a law last year restricting off-highway vehicle use in wetlands such as shallow and deep marshes, shallow open water and bogs.

The law requires violators to pay restitution for damage to wetlands on both private and public lands.

DNR offers advice on pheasant feeding

From the DNR

As the snow depth continued to increase during the first few days of February, so also did the inquiries to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from well-meaning individuals concerned about the plight of pheasants.

To feed or not to feed, that is the question. Bob Meyer, DNR Area Wildlife Manager at Marshall, said that while the DNR does encourage the practice of providing pheasants with food, it’s important it is done right.

“If not, you can actually do more harm than good,” Meyer stated.

According to Meyer, it’s always best to begin pheasant feeding efforts prior to the first snowfall of the year so that the birds have time to locate the feeders before dangerous weather sets in.

And, once pheasants become accustomed to using a feeder, it’s imperative that feeding continue into spring.

“While pheasants prefer feeding in standing corn and searching for food in corn and bean stubble, they will use feeders if food plots or waste grain are not accessible,” Meyer noted.

In instances where feeding is begun later in the year, “the most important thing to remember is that the feeder should be located close to good winter cover, but not so close that it gets buried.

If it’s too far away, pheasants become exposed to predators as they travel back and forth, they’re forced to expend more energy, and they become much more vulnerable to bad weather.”

Meyer explained that pheasants rarely actually die of starvation during winter. “It’s exposure and predators that take the toll on them,” Meyer said.

Those interested in feeding pheasants (shelled corn is preferred) can go to the DNR Web site for additional information and directions on how to construct a feeder (click on Newsroom and then Hot Topics.) Or, contact the DNR Regional Office at New Ulm at 507-359-6015.

Outdoor notes

’s Club will meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Tom’s Corner Bar in Winsted.

The agenda includes plans for the April hog roast.

The hog roast fund raiser is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 3, at the American Legion Club in Winsted.

’s Club will meet sometime in the next few weeks to review the fishing derby, and possibly hear from DNR Area Fisheries Manager Paul Diedrich.

The topic of discussion will be the rearing pond on the west side of Howard Lake.

Proceeds from this years fishing derby will be used for improvements being made to the access and boat landing on the south shore of Howard Lake.

’s Club will host it’s annual Father/Son-Daughter Banquet Friday, March 19 at Lester Prairie City Hall.


Slush, open water and obstacles like fallen trees have made the river tough riding.




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