Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

Oct. 25, 2004

More hunters, fewer birds

Ortonville, Minn.

On Saturday, Oct. 16, the opening day of Minnesota’s 2004 pheasant hunting season, a smaller crop of pheasants, and acres and acres of standing corn, greeted what I would call the biggest turnout of Minnesota pheasant hunters in 20-plus years.

Hunters in far western Minnesota, near Ortonville, seemed to be everywhere on opening day.

According to other reports from around the state’s pheasant range, the same held true, a big turnout of hunters.

On Sunday, our local area also boasted a good share of hunters in the fields and sloughs.

Although a slower than normal crop harvest did affect hunting success, all those hunters did run into fewer birds.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, through it’s August Roadside survey, reported a 47 percent decline in Minnesota’s pheasant population compared to 2003.

After a day of hunting and talking to many other Minnesota pheasant hunters, it seems the DNR numbers could be pretty accurate.

We won’t really know until after the corn harvest, and a few more days spent in field by hunters.

The huge turnout of hunters, most likely, had something to do with last year’s banner hunting season and big bird numbers in Minnesota, and many hunters deciding to stay and hunt in Minnesota, because of greater restrictions on non-resident hunters in other prime pheasant states like North Dakota.

Although it was a sub-par opener, those Minnesota hunters, who like to trudge through cattail sloughs in December, may find some good pheasant hunting.

The late corn harvest, and two additional weeks of hunting, will only help.

Now, with the season underway, the trick to getting birds in Minnesota’s pheasant country is to watch the corn harvest.

Look for areas of good cover next to standing corn and then take note of the corn harvest.

When the corn comes off, head into the remaining cover.

Minnesota’s 2004 pheasant hunting season closes Friday, Dec. 31.

North Dakota pheasants

North Dakota’s pheasant hunting season opened Saturday, Oct. 9, and in the south central part of the state the hunting has been good.

Although the corn harvest has been progressing slower than in Minnesota, birds numbers and hunting pressure on the state’s vast amounts of public lands have equaled up to good hunting.

In North Dakota, non-resident hunters were not allowed to hunt state owned public lands for the first week of the season.

Non-resident hunters are also now required to choose from five-day hunting periods with the purchase of one non-resident license.

Parts of North and South Dakota did not receive the heavy spring rains that we did this year, in turn the pheasant hatch was a good one and bird numbers are high.

Pheasant numbers in Nebraska are also reported to be up this year.

Barbed wire

Angus, my now six year lab/springer mix, got himself tangled up in some barbed wire while hunting in North Dakota.

He was chasing a down rooster, and after making it through one fence line the bird held up at the end of the CRP field along another fence line.

When Angus dove into the line to grab the bird, the bird flushed and hit the top line of the wire.

Angus came out with the bird and ended up with 40 plus stitches in his chest and leg.

Unlike Minnesota, North Dakota is stilled lined with miles and miles of barbed wire fence.

Most of those fence lines carry good pheasant and wildlife habitat.

In Minnesota, we removed the fence lines and replaced it with tile lines.

In North Dakota, the fence lines and potholes are still there, and so are the ducks, deer and pheasants.

Hunters may arrange to donate extra venison

From the DNR

This year, Minnesota deer hunters may arrange to have their extra venison donated to programs that distribute food to the needy.

Under an agreement reached by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Department of Agriculture, food shelves and other food distribution programs may now accept venison from approved meat processors.

“Making it legally possible to donate venison may provide an incentive for hunters to harvest an extra deer, which could be an additional tool that allows us to lower local deer populations”, said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game coordinator. “People in need will also benefit as venison is a great high-protein, low-fat meat source.”

Hunters are encouraged to work with their local deer hunting groups to set up a network of cooperating processors, food banks, and funding to offset the cost of processing deer.

The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Bluffland Whitetails, Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry and the Safari Club are currently cooperating in the program.

Contact information for those groups is available on the venison donation page of the DNR Web site.

Hunters should make preparations for donating venison before they hunt.

Additional information can be found in a brochure titled ‘Field to Fork’, which is posted on the DNR Web site at:

The following is a summary of several provisions of the program:

• hunters must legally harvest and register the deer at a DNR check station prior to making the donation

• to donate a deer, hunters must work through an approved processor. (A list of processors has been posted on the venison donation page of the DNR Web site)

• hunters will be responsible for paying for processing the deer, program cooperators may provide financial assistance

• only meat processors that are approved by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture may participate in the program; food banks can only accept venison processed from approved processors.

Hunters or cooperating hunting groups must contact local food banks to learn: if they will accept venison, if they would be willing to pick it up after it has been frozen, how they would like it packaged, some food banks prefer ground meat in one pound packages, and some would prefer to have boned-out steaks and roasts along with ground meat

• hunters who drop off a field dressed deer for donation will be asked to complete a short donation form, available at approved meat processors.

Hunters will be responsible to pay for the processing, and give the processor information on how to contact the food shelf when the meat is ready.

Cornicelli said the DNR is working with cooperating groups to establish a long-term funding source that would offset the cost of processing deer that are to be donated.

Outdoor notes

• The duck hunting in our area and across Minnesota continues to be dismal.

Reports indicate that a poor crop season in southern Manitoba paired with warm weather and good water conditions, have kept a majority of the ducks and geese from moving farther south.

• The 2004 Minnesota firearms deer hunting season opens Saturday, Nov. 6.

For those of you looking for a place to site in your deer rifles, head to the Waverly Sportsmen’s Club.

The club has a great range and programs for rifle sight in. For more information call (763) 658-4644.

• Take the time to give your hunting dog an inspection for good health.

Check the underside and belly, paws, pads, eyes and ears.

Hunting is like a football game for a dog, and hunting in dry, warm conditions can be especially tough on them.

Also, now isn’t the time to change your dog’s diet. If you think your dog isn’t doing well because of over work or travel don’t make it worse by changing his diet.

• Now is the time for great walleye and northern pike fishing. Watch the moon phases and fish shallow water.

• Today, Oct. 25, the sun will rise at 7:43 a.m. and set at 6:11 p.m.

• Daylight saving time ends Sunday, Oct. 31.

• On Monday, Nov. 1 the sun will rise at 6:52 a.m. and set at 5:01 p.m.

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