Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

Aug. 2, 2004

Will this be the year of the pheasant?

In Minnesota, and the mid-west, will this be the year of the pheasant, and pheasant hunters?

As we move into August, and the onset of another season of hunting, that’s an intriguing question.

The pheasant hunting season of 2003 was probably the best Minnesota hunters had experienced since the early 1960’s.

The hunting in Iowa was far above average, and in the Dakota’s it was a season of huge bird numbers, and hunts that won’t be long forgotten.

In 2004, only time and a season of hunting can answer the above question.

In Minnesota’s pheasant range we probably had the highest numbers of birds coming out of winter that we have had, again, since the early 1960’s, and the prospects of a another great, or may be even better, season of hunting were huge.

Then, the critical spring nesting season arrived, and as young chicks hatched it rained, rained and rained across much of the state’s prime pheasant range.

The rain dampened the enthusiasm of Department of Natural resources experts, and many pheasant hunters.

Right now, with August roadside counts for pheasants, and other wildlife, only a week away, biologists and concerned hunters are not quite sure what to expect.

In June, the DNR was suggesting that the hatch was poor, and pheasant numbers in southwestern Minnesota probably took a hit from the previous year.

The thought was that cool and very wet weather in late May, and for much of June, had already taken, or would take, it’s toll on bird numbers in that part of the state.

The same theory was carried to our area of the pheasant range as well.

While that story was coming from DNR and Pheasants Forever biologists, farmers in southwestern Minnesota were saying rainfall and water levels didn’t seem above normal, and the pheasant hatch was shaping up to be a good one.

In far western Minnesota, and in parts of the west-central range where rainfalls weren’t as heavy, expectations remain high.

Field notes from those areas indicated there were specific areas where spring nesting conditions were far from ideal, and that in some areas the pheasant hatch occurred much earlier than normal.

The hatch, in fact, may have been early enough, that young broods were to the point where cool wet weather may not have affected them much.

At this point in time, reports from the Dakota’s indicate this upcoming season could be the best ever.

Actually I’ve heard that report from South Dakota several times now.

The reports from Iowa and Nebraska aren’t as good, and seem to follow those of southwestern Minnesota, where the spring nesting season was dominated by cool, wet weather.

Before the roadside counts are released, and hunting expectations are determined, I’ll leave you with some information on pheasant nesting.

The pheasant nesting season normally starts in mid April, and attains peak activity throughout May.

Nest construction starts with a shallow depression scratched from the ground in some type of grassy cover.

The nest is then lined with grass and leaves.

The incubation period is about 23 days, and starts for a hen after all of her eggs have been laid.

The hen remains on her nest, leaving only briefly each day to feed.

The average size of April clutches is 10-12 eggs, but there is a decline with each renesting attempt to a July average of about six.

Pheasant production is supplemented by one to four attempts at nesting.

If the first nest is destroyed, the hen will repeatedly nest until she is successful in hatching a clutch.

Only one brood is hatched in a nesting season.

Because of the strong tendency to renest, from 40 to 70 percent of hens successfully hatch their eggs.

The major hatching period in Minnesota is in June, and the reproductive season is over by the end of July, except for a few very late renesting attempts.

Twenty- three days after the start of incubation, the chicks pip the shell, with all eggs hatched in about 24 hours.

The hen then leads her chicks from the nest as soon as their fine down is dry.

Insects make up 90 percent of the chicks diet in the first week, and up to 50 percent in the first five weeks.

During the first three weeks after hatching, hens and their chicks remain in a 10 to 20 acre area around the nest.

Roosters, hens, and broods gradually expand their home range to about 80 acres when the chicks reach eight weeks old.

On the average, three chicks to every brood are lost to weather or predators between hatching and eight weeks of age.

Minnesota’s pheasant hunting season opens Saturday, Oct. 16 and this year extends to Friday, Dec. 31.

Boat and water safety

From the DNR

Boating is one of the largest summer activities in Minnesota.

Everyone must know and obey the Minnesota Laws and Regulations so that accidents are less likely to occur.

By obeying these laws everyone will continue to have a safe and enjoyable summer.

Here are some of the laws and regulations that will make boating safer for everyone.

All motorized and non-motorized watercrafts (more than nine feet in length) must be licensed.

Personal flotation devices (life jacket) must be of appropriate size.

You must have a throwable device in a boat that is sixteen feet in length or larger.

Life jackets must be readily accessible and a throwable device must be immediately accessible.

The operator and passenger must wear a PFD when operating a PWC (jet ski). PFD’s must also be in the boat or worn by persons being towed on skis or other device.

A PWC cannot be operated by anyone under 13 years of age.

Fire extinguishers must be Coast Guard approved type B1 or B2 and must be mounted in a watercraft with an enclosed engine or fuel tank.

Boat operators less than twelve years of age may operate 25 HP or less with no restrictions.

More than 25 HP through 75 HP must have someone 21 years of age on board within reach of the controls.

Over 75 HP cannot operate even with an adult on board.

Twelve to seventeen years of age operating a watercraft over 25 HP must either have a watercraft operator’s permit or someone 21 years of age on board within reach of the controls.

It is against the law to operate a watercraft in a careless or reckless manner.

Passengers and cargo must not weigh more than the watercrafts carrying capacity allows.

Passengers cannot ride or sit on the gunwales or transom while the watercraft is underway.

Littering on the public waters or in a public access is also prohibited.

Boating while intoxicated is dangerous to everyone.

This applies to operators of a watercraft that are not anchored, beached, moored, docked, or being rowed or propelled by non-mechanical means.

These are some of the Minnesota Boating Laws that can make boating safer and more fun for everyone this summer.

For more information on the laws and regulations you can pick up a copy of the Minnesota Boating Guide at your local DNR office or Law Enforcement Center.

Brought to you by Conservation Officer Larry Hanson, and the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources.

New regulations

From the DNR

The DNR advised Minnesota hunters to be aware of several new law and regulation changes in effect this fall.

They include:

• Waterfowl shooting hours on opening day now begin at 9 a.m.

• Prairie chicken hunters may take sharp-tailed grouse.

• Firearm and all-season deer hunters will no longer be restricted to taking antlerless deer in an area declared in advance, but will be asked what permit area they hunt most often.

• The prohibition of party hunting with all season deer licenses has been removed.

• Hunters cannot bring entire carcasses of deer, elk or moose into Minnesota from areas of other states or provinces where CWD has been found in wild deer or elk.

• Youth under 18 may purchase a half-price archery or firearms deer license and may take deer of either sex statewide.

• Youth deer hunts have been expanded; youth hunters may now apply through ELS; a special youth season will be held in northwest Minnesota.

• Proposed regular waterfowl season regulation changes will be announced later this summer after federal frameworks are established.

Question of the week

From the DNR

Q: Technology has improved hunting and fishing.

But some pieces of equipment, such as cell phones and two-way radios, can become illegal if misused.

What is the state law on the use of such communications devices?

A: In addition to their blaze orange clothing, guns and other hunting gear, hunters are increasingly becoming technologically savvy.

This includes the use of cellular phones and two-way radios.

These devices can save lives, help find lost hunters, and even allow hunters to chat with their spouses as they sit around a campfire at night.

But just because they’re readily available doesn’t mean they are necessarily legal for hunting or fishing in Minnesota, or any other state.

According to Minnesota hunting regulations, it is illegal to use radio communications to aid in the taking of game.

For example, hunters cannot communicate the locations of wild game or use the devices while driving animals to other hunters.

Conservation officers do encounter hunters using some form of radio communications to assist others in the taking of game animals.

Misuse of cell phones, two-way radios and other communications devices can land hunters on the stand in a courtroom.

Additional information about the use of radios while hunting can be found under general hunting information in the Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook.

Outdoor notes

• The Winsted Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will meet tonight, Monday, Aug. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the Blue Note. Anyone interested is urged to attend.

• The Winsted Sportsmen’s Club will meet Tuesday, Aug. 3 at the Lake Mary Clubhouse.

Plans will be made for an upcoming buffalo feed.

• Now is the time to start getting yourself, and your dog, in shape for the upcoming hunting seasons.

• The dove and early Canada goose hunting seasons are only a month away.

• The fishing has been good on many of our area lakes.

The northern pike bite as been better then average, and lakes like Clearwater, Silvia and Waconia are giving up good numbers of sunfish in 8 to 10 feet water.

Look for the northern pike bite to pick up as summer winds down and evening temps start to cool.

• Pay special attention to areas of mill foil on Howard Lake.

If you’re boating or fishing on Howard, please stay away from the mil foil patches.

Attempts are being made to control the spread of the plant to other areas of the lake, and keeping the current patches in place with out them being torn up by boaters, and anglers, is a key factor in that control effort.

• Take a kid fishing, he or she will have fun, and so will you.

• Today, (Monday), the sun will rise at 6 a.m. and set at 8:38 p.m.

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